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Prayer

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

It was 2012 when I went to Honduras for the first time. Me and Dennis and five other older women. It was like a weird episode of the Golden Girls (if you don’t know what the Golden Girls are…ask your parents). It was a blast!! I loved sitting and talking with the ladies, working on building houses, feeding people, playing with kids, walking around a hospital praying with sick men and women, who despite a language barrier knew at least the God I was praying to. And all I could think when I got home was, I can’t wait to bring students back. 

Last year we dabbed our foot in the water. Three students and two adults. I was a pile of nerves even though i wasn’t there. I was so anxious to see them and hear how it went that I couldn’t help but meet them at the airport. A picture of that group sits on my desk and I can’t help but smile each time I look at it.

Then in September we started fundraising and spreading the word. From the beginning of 2013, I said “we wouldn’t do this without God’s hand in it.” I spent hours on my knees and back in prayer. Late nights just looking up at the ceiling and talking to God, expressing my hope, fear, frustrations and desire for us to make our goal. I have never understood the idea of “pray without ceasing” as clearly as I have this past year. Not a day went by where Honduras wasn’t on my mind.

Then we made our goal! It was a miracle to me that we made the goal in spades. And this past Friday it struck me: I hadn’t prayed about Honduras since the benefit concert. I had forgotten that we still had the trip lol.

Prayer is a beautiful thing. It’s our chance to sit and listen to God but also to express our thoughts to Him. I believe Scripture teaches us that God listens to our prayers. Our prayers matter. I believe our prayers, in tandem with the Holy Spirit, change fates; life is not entirely a pre-designed set of steps clearly laid out before us. Sure there are something that God has prepared in advance but I don’t think that applies to everything.

That’s why we pray. We pray to live into the idea of God’s will being done on earth as it is in Heaven. We pray to find out what that will is and we pray to impact that will (see Luke 11). We keep going before God to be in communication with Him. To be in an intimate relationship with Him.

So keep praying for Honduras. Don’t stop just because we’re almost there. And if you hadn’t started yet…start now. 4 days people!! 4 days to see God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. So let’s get on our knees until they ache and lift up our voices until our throats are dry!!

 

4 days baby!! WOO!!!! 

Fear

You may or may not know that during youth group activities or events I am on edge. Not that I’m nervous all the time, I’m simply overly attentive to everything. I watch teens conversate, the way they make faces, what they do with their hands, who gets in line for food, who does and doesn’t play the game, who talks who doesn’t and so forth and so on. I am attentive and aware and prepared for anything to happen…and that’s just a regular Sunday night youth group (which btw, is why I like to be napping on the pew from 5:30-5:45).

So if you were to ask Kyle to describe what he’ll be like next week think, “a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” There is a lot to be anxious about when going on a mission trip (or any youth trip really).There is a lot to be anxious for in a developing country like Honduras. So combine them and you get a massive tornado of potential anxiety and fear. We go next week trusting God because there are a lot of unknowables involved.

What is something you’re afraid? What are you most concerned about in regards to our Honduras trip?

It’s funny how quickly a small concern can grow into a major worry and then evolve into a massive fear. You know what I’m talking about? You have a small thought that you let run wild and pretty soon…you find yourself afraid to swim in lakes because you’re afraid of swimming into a dead body (long story, silly fear from high school…still the reason i don’t like swimming in lakes).

So again I ask, “what are you most concerned about for our Honduras trip?” If you can write it down or say it outloud do so now please. I’ll wait.

Done yet? Really? Sheesh…ok hurry up.

Ok…have your fear? Good. Think about it for a moment. Why do you have this fear or concern? How daunting is this fear to you?

Here’s the good news: Our God is bigger. Our God is bigger than any fear or doubt we could possibly conceive. You know…cause He’s God and all, it comes with the territory. Nothing we can imagine for this trip will ever be able to over power the wonderful God who calls us to serve Him.

Consider these words of Jesus found in john 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble but take heart!! I have overcome!!”

Notice he doesn’t say “we won’t struggle, I have overcome!!” He says you will struggle and I have overcome.” The things we fear may bring us trouble, not like our Honduras trip won’t have problems (the DUMP alone may make some of you discover how much you can vomit in one hour) but those problems, those struggles and those fears have nothing on Jesus. He has overcome!!

As you prepare for Honduras spend some time taking your concerns and fears before the Lord in prayer. Focus on Him and let Him take you by the hand through your fears in His strength and His glory.

An Exciting Story!!

If you’re life was a book, would people read it? What kind of story would it be? Would people walk away from that book feeling better about life? Would they know something knew about the world around them? Would it change the way they think of love? Would it be an action and adventure book or a love story? Would it tell the tale of an under dog over coming amazing odds to accomplish some brilliant goal?  Would it be a best seller or at least make a profit from sales? Would it be a story worth telling?

Or would it bore people? Would it be the story that you get three chapters in and think, “Nope, I’m done.” Would it quickly get tossed into a donation pile? Would scores of copies be stored away in warehouses for ages to come? Would it make it on the 10 worst selling books of all time? Would it be mediocre?

Why would it be boring? What is your story lacking that would make it worth telling to someone else?

I am excited because next week, after literally years of planning and praying, after months of fundraising, we finally get to go to Honduras. We get to stand among people who live in a dump, we get to build houses, we get to feed the hungry, we get to play with orphans. We get to be apart of the story of Jesus. We get to be a part of the Kingdom of God in a wonderfully, simplistic way. I’m not saying it’s going to be amazing at every step of the way. I’m not saying it’s going to be a deeply spiritual week. It may just be a regular work week for us. But it will be a GOOD week. It will be good because we will get to interact with Jesus in a way we don’t often have the chance to.

Matthew 25 tells the parable of the end of times. In the story one group of people is sent off to destruction for not caring for the poor, the hurting, the naked and the hungry. Another group finds salvation because they did care for the poor, the hurting, the naked and the hungry. In the midst of this story Jesus says, “That which you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Do you get what that means? Jesus hangs out with the poor. Jesus is in the midst of those who are hurting, broken, naked and hungry. We get to serve Jesus in a wonderful, smelly, gross, hard, beautiful way next week.  How awesome is that?! We get to take hold of the Lord in a way that many Christians fail to do. But we GET to. It’s a beautiful gift that is coming next week.

Now of course, you might be nervous. That is a perfectly normal response. We are traveling to a different culture, with a different language and a different worldview than our own. And of course you may be doubting what good you’ll be next week. Again, a perfectly normal response. From personal experience I know I can do very little when it comes to hammering. And it’s often hard to help people when you can’t understand them. But in whatever way we may deem ourselves valuable or unvaluable remember that none of that matters anyway. We’re not going because we have a long list of skill sets people need. We’re going because Jesus is there and we want to be a part of what he is doing. We’re going because Jesus loves us enough to give us an opportunity to be a part of something special.

So what kind of book would you have? Whatever kind of book you think it might be, the good news is that if it’s boring you can change it. You can live a life that is filled with good. Next week we all get to add an exciting story to our books. I hope you don’t miss out on it. Start preparing now. Start praying, start reading Scripture. Open your mind up to the story God is writing in Honduras and when we get there next week, dive in like someone who just bought a brand new book they can’t wait to read.

In my last blog I talked about my future plans for raising Isaac (my son). Ideas that I had that I would try and implement to help him grow not only into a responsible adult but also into a faithful follower of Jesus. It was based off an article that I read called “10 Mistakes Christian Parents Make” or something along those lines…I don’t remember the specific title at hand and it really isn’t important. It was an article in line with what seems like hundreds of other blogs that are trying to address the problem of Christians leaving the faith when they get older. The theory is (and research supports this theory to a degree) that teenagers model their parents’ faith. This is a good pursuit. Strong Christian role models are a noble endeavor. God is certainly glorified when we try and encourage one another. Plus the Church needs a PR face lift, so encourage radical faithfulness to Jesus can certainly help with that in some ways I imagine.

But then I got to thinking about parents who students who left the faith who were faithful followers of Jesus. In all the studies, in all the reports it can become very easy to assume that teens that stay in church had great parents and teens that didn’t had not so great parents. It can be easy to turn this discussion or issue into a black and white, this is in and this is out battle extravaganza…similar to the discussions about which sleep training method to use Baby Wise or whatever other books are out there.

It’s easy to get vicious in these discussions because we care about our kids. Because this issue is important and when important issues arise it is hard to remain objective and honest. It is easy to get tunnel vision and create a strict, one size fits all solution. So I got to thinking about all of that. And while I do plan on implementing many of my ideas plus others I also want to address one thing when it comes to parenting. But before I go there, a word on future Kyle.

This whole post started because I started thinking about Future Kyle…you know the me in a few years who has to live with the results of Present Kyle (the always awesome) or Past Kyle’s (the usually annoying) decisions. Normally, I’m very neglectful of Future Kyle mainly saying “That’s Future Kyle’s problem.” But in a rare moment of futuristic-self-empathy, I started to worry about how Future Kyle would respond to my last post. What If I didn’t implement everything, what if Isaac grew up not following Jesus? What if he was Buddhist or something else? Would Future Kyle be sad? Is this another soon to be “silly past Kyle” moments that Future Kyle would bemoan? So I’m going to be a little pastoral to Future Kyle…and hopefully to others as well.

Dear Future Kyle,

Hey buddy, hope you’re doing well. Sorry about your credit score…I know, I know. On a brighter note, I bet you’re still hilarious and well read. Is it easier to buy books off amazon after they downloaded the shop chip into our collective brains? Do you still play Fantasy Football? I hope you do. Also, I’m trying to lose weight so our waste stops looking like our dad’s or better yet a lower case b. I’m assuming I succeeded.

Look, I don’t know what the future holds or what decisions I made but I hope we made good ones. Regardless of what happened, remember, Good Parenting does not negate free will (or if for some reason you turn Calvinist on me….Good Parenting does not negate predestination). You do the best you can, share and proclaim to the best of your abilities and the Lord moves as He will. Isaac will make whatever decisions he wanted to. It is not a negative reflection on you or your parenting choices.

Look, you know this but in case you forgot, kids do dumb things. Kids rebel. Kids don’t always listen and if Isaac is anything like his mother (and you unfortunately) he’s probably really stubborn. We’re all flawed people and sometimes we make mistakes. You’re just as flawed as Isaac if not more so. Yes you could’ve read more books to him, made more time for him. I’m sure you lost your temper with him more often than you would like. But you never stopped loving him and that is important.

Regardless, he is a free being capable of making his own choices. The reasons people make the decisions they make are complex and not always easy to resolve. Faith takes time to develop. And remember faith is not built on a list of rules, doctrines, ideas or even actions of other people but it is grounded in some experience with the Risen Lord Jesus. Maybe it hasn’t clicked yet, in any event, keep your head up buddy.

If he isn’t a Christian please remember the story for him isn’t over yet. There is always time, God is always at work and wondrous things tend to happen when we least expect them to. Regardless, he is your son and for that give thanks and be proud. He is a gift. He is YOUR gift. Treat him well, treat him with love, be firm when necessary (cause I bet that was your strength…right? being firm? I’m sure it was). But above all never stop supporting him.

That’s all for now buddy. I hope we end up well, maybe not super rich but I would like to think the world is a better place because we existed. In any event, I’ll do my best so you don’t have to roll your eyes too much when you get all nostalgic. Say “Sup girrrrl you lookin all fine and what nots to future Erin” for me. Love you bro and I’ll see you one day.

 

P.S. – IF we develop the ability to time travel, DON’T go back to the old west…I don’t want to die in the 1800’s around cowboys. Any other time is fine. *future self -high five*

 

Two posts in less than 24 hours…vacation is spoiling me!! Recently I shared an article that talked about the top 10 mistakes Christian parents make with their teens. I’ve shared a number of these articles before because I am of the opinion (and I think we have research to back this up) that teenagers (for the most part) model the faith of their parents. Thus, I try to post articles that can help feed the conversation going on among the parents at my church who are on Facebook (which is every one of them because teens have left Facebook…. Due to their parents being there =D).

All of the articles share good points (or I wouldn’t post them). All of the articles make points I don’t always agree with (because I don’t have to agree with everything I read lol). But many of them fall into a vein that is far too common among the Christian blogging industry. They point out a problem without actually providing solutions. Christians are really good at whining…it’s because we’re descendants of Israel and we learned from the best. To be fair, people in general are good at whining. I in fact have a fine talent for pointing out the barbecue sauce on someone else’s shirt and then ignore my own barbecue sauce stained garments.

Thus we arrive at this post. This is not a post to point out problems but to offer solutions (mostly theoretical because my son is only 10 months old). It’s a post intended to get my parenting juices flowing. It’s a post that is intended to remind myself that my role as a spiritual guide has already begun and if I wait until I see a problem, I’ve probably already missed my chance.

But mainly this post arose because Paul Cartwright threw down the gauntlet. Here’s what happened. I observed that many of the previously discussed posts miss a key point that spiritual guidance needs to start BEFORE our kids are teenagers. Paul sent me a message and said “good observation why don’t you write a post about it.” My first thought was…because I’m not a parent of a child above the age of 1. But then I decided, “Why do I need to wait until my kid is five or seven or whatever age to begin to make a game plan?”

Surely I can use my God given intellect to begin making a rough draft of sorts, an intentional focus and be humble enough to tweak when necessary. I will admit at the beginning these are all very early thoughts and I’m sure there are much wiser books, blogs and speakers who have something to say on the matter of spiritual parenting and in fact have already said a lot on the matter. So if you’re still reading here are my very limited perspective thoughts on Raising Isaac for Jesus (most of these are reflections from what I’ve seen others do, try or say…so if you said something and I took it from you but don’t remember…thanks for the help!!).

1)   One sport one season. I hate year around sports. They drive me bonkers. They add unneeded stress to teens and parents and they are a symptom of a very unhealthy relationship our culture has with sports. Most likely my son will not be all sporty (my wife and I are notoriously unsporty. I mean…I’m BAAAAADDD. This past summer I played a one on one game of basketball that lasted 20 minutes. Final score? 3 to 0. I almost puked more times than I scored (and for the record…I won that game). In no particular order.

If Isaac wants to play a sport and be a part of a team then I will support him fully. I will be at his games and try to make his practices as often as I can. However, his sports will not be the center of my life/calendar nor will it be the center of our family’s calendar. Maybe he won’t get to play as much as other students because of this and he and I will have a conversation about this and why it is important to not be controlled by one activity but to seek to live a healthy life. We will talk about how devotion to Jesus calls for sacrifice but in that sacrifice there is a joy because we find opportunities to do other good things. So yes he’ll play sports but he’ll do other stuff as well.

2) Jesus will be a big deal in our family. Isaac had his first Christmas this year and we started a tradition of reading a book about the Christmas story to Him on Christmas Eve (as he gets older this tradition will be coupled with our family tradition of watching a Muppet Christmas Carol). Every year we will read “The Crippled Lamb” because Jesus is a big deal in our family. Will he have Santa Clause? Yes. We are a family of imagination and Santa will be a part as well. And when he asks about the reality of Santa I will tell him the original story of Santa and talk about why we keep retelling the story each year as it connects to a man who loved Jesus.

I plan on talking about faith (in a positive way, not in a griping “so and so did such and such” at church) at the dinner table: telling stories of answered or unanswered prayers, discussing religious ideas as they come up, engaging Isaac’s life with the power and wonder of God. I did this as a young man with a friend’s family and it made me a better man and Christian. And btw, no topic will be off limits. They may be accommodated for His age but we will be open to discussing any topic.

When we read bed time stories, sometimes we will read or simply tell stories from the Bible. I have a friend who is going to start doing Jesus Calling devotionals with her boys soon (children’s edition). I like to think we will try this as well. In any event, we will pray together, we will read the Bible together and we will discuss faith together. Isaac will be free to choose whether or not he believes in God or wants to follow Jesus. But I will proclaim the wonder and power of my Lord to my son for as long as I have breath.

3)   Church will be a nonnegotiable (at least on Sundays). I know, I know there are nightmare stories of children being forced to go to Church and being bitter for it. I was forced to go to Church, I have friends that were forced to go to Church and guess what…we still go to Church. I’m not saying every time the doors are open Isaac will have to be there (I mean, I most likely will but he won’t). I am saying for followers of Christ being with other believers is a necessity and he will know the value of being together with other believers regularly.

I will share with him my desperate need to be around others who share in our beliefs. I will share with him the joy of being there to encourage others in the faith. I will walk with him through the “church is boring dad” moments and I will invite him to help me find ways to make church better. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. I’m going to teach my son HE HAS A VOICE IN THE ACTIVITIES OF CHURCH!! He will be a PARTICIPANT!!

He will be involved. He will share in the ministry of the church working alongside members as we live as a community. For instance, when it comes to potlucks, I don’t want Isaac going first with all the children. Isaac and I will go with the other adults. More importantly, I will ask Isaac to go through a potluck line with an elderly member with me and we will eat with them. Will he always like this idea? Probably not. Will I ALWAYS force him to do it? Maybe, maybe not. Will he know that followers of Jesus look after the least of these and don’t rush to fill our faces like hogs at a feeding trough? Yes. Will he learn to respect and value the elderly? Yes. Will he learn to engage the elderly? Yes.

 He won’t just be ministered to in the Children’s ministry. He will minister to others in small ways. And he and I (and his mom) will work together to find ways to use his gifts in the Church. He’ll read Scripture if he wants, he’ll lead songs if he wants, he’ll serve communion. If I ever become a preacher and he wants to preach with me, he will. If he wants to work lights or stay in the background he will. But I want to give him the opportunity to discover how God can use Him to encourage and strengthen and challenge fellow believers.

4) He will serve the community in Jesus’ name. I am a huge social justice junkie. I like to serve the poor and consider the least of these. I will invite Isaac to join me in this work. One of my friends just took his six year old son to Mexico for a mission trip. I love that idea!! Maybe we’ll take a family vacation (not every year but on occasion) just to serve in a mission type way. My other friend took his daughter to help make cinnamon rolls to serve to their local homeless population on Christmas. A marvelous idea!! I also read about a family that made pancakes and used their 4 year old son’s red wagon to help bring the pancakes to those who were hungry. I was all “WHAAA?!”

I want to show Isaac that faith is not just words and ideas but also actions and a lifestyle. I hope that my son and I can enjoy the deep discussion parts of faith but also enjoy the action side of faith. We will serve together and enter into the joy of giving to others and putting their needs first. It is a major part of faith that I want him to experience. When we talk about college and school I will challenge him to find a job that doesn’t just make money but betters the world for the glory of God.   When it comes to homework, I’ll help him as best I can and I expect him to try his best but I want his best to be because God has given him the opportunity to learn.

5) Above all I will love Isaac unconditionally. You ever noticed how God says “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased” at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry? Like before he did anything really amazing, God was already proud of the Son. The same is true for me and Isaac. The first night he was born I held him in my arms and simply repeated those words to him. I made a promise that no matter what happens I will love my son, no questions asked.

He may be lazy and bad in school. I will love him. He may not be great at sports and I will love him. He may make some really really dumb choices but I will love him. He may decide that following Jesus isn’t for him. Or that I am a bad dad or get a girl pregnant before marriage or have a drug problem or whatever. I will always love my son and every night after we pray and every morning when we wake up I will tell him, “You are my son and with you I am well pleased.” And when he makes a mistake and I discipline him I will remember to say “you are still my son and though you screwed up, I am still well pleased because you are still my son.

I will work hard not to call him stupid when he messes up. I will work hard not to call him a failure when he fails. I will work hard to still be proud of him even in the dark times of his life and I will be there walking beside him as best I can. Will I always bail him out financially? Probably not. Does this mean I won’t have high expectations for him? By no means. Will it mean he’ll get everything he ever wants? Not gonna happen. But no matter what, he will know that he is loved.

So there we go…here’s the beginning of trying to help my son find faith. It’s probably really flawed but so am I. OOO…I’ll also show Isaac that we’re all flawed and we all make mistakes and that’s ok.  

I need to blog, I have had the time and even the ideas to blog but I haven’t. So this post is one of those, I need to blog blogs and just free style it to get the creative juices back on track…you know for the next few days before I return to work and then run out of ideas/time or energy to blog lol.

Despite being one who speaks highly of rest and the importance of taking/exercising regular Sabbaths, I rarely take vacations. I sit idly (ironic) by watching all of my friends take beach trips, lake trips, Vegas trips, Reno trips, ski trips, Disney trips and even trip trips (which I hear are really a trip). I typically vacation vicariously through others always wondering “how do these people find the time, energy, and money to travel and vacation as often as they do?”

So here I sit on the tail end of my first vacation in about three years. Sure I’ve taken some weekend trips here and there but nothing really extended. It’s been three years I think since I took one. As we packed I was a little gun shy about calling this time a vacation, I mean…does visiting family count? Is visiting family actually a vacation? We’ve all had those experiences where our family is actually MORE exhausting than restoring…particularly around the holiday season. Not to mention the fact that when you travel so rarely to where you were birthed there is this spoken and unspoken expectation that everyone who lives within an hour travel should be visited and a reasonable amount of catching up is required. Which…just adds to the exhaustion…oh and then there’s the baby. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, I’m glad I got to see them and my in-laws. But we all have those stories where (intentionally or unintentionally) being around family was less than restorative and very draining.

Needless to say, the potential for this trip to be more exhausting than less was a real and present danger.  I decided something early on (like before we left). I decided to actually treat this like a vacation and NOT a family visit. And thus far…I’d say it’s gone over pretty darn well. It meant not seeing everyone and their dog (although I did try to plan a few visits some of them didn’t work and while I was sad I didn’t feel guilty about it). It meant being ok with having mom watch Isaac while I went out.  And the biggest hurdle for me, it meant not feeling guilty for deciding to take some “me” time.

Now maybe that is selfish. Maybe that makes me a jerk. I don’t think so. I think it simply makes me human. It means I’m tired and I need to rest.  It allowed me to actually rest and to not feel guilty for needing/ wanting to rest. And it allowed me to enjoy the time I had with everyone. I didn’t feel forced to do anything, I didn’t feel burdened by seeing anyone. I enjoyed seeing everyone I saw.

I was raised to care about other people. I was raised to consider their needs and their desires before my own (and sometimes I even manage to pull that off). But over time I developed a very unhealthy sense of service. I began to feel guilty if I couldn’t meet someone’s request. Worried that they would be upset with me or would like me less or a hundred million other possible negative outcomes.

But when I do that, I become really bitter. Instead of allowing my friendship and the people around me to be a gift from God to be experienced in this world, they become a never ending burden that sucks the life out of a man. This isn’t to say I don’t love my life or my job but rather to say that I can’t go on and on and on without stopping. And when I do stop, I need to actually rest not simply shut down and escape. I need to RECHARGE.

Jesus needed to recharge. Yes even the Son of God was exhausted by people and thus Jesus in the gospels we find Jesus taking some “Him” time to be with the Father; to be away from the everyday business of Messiahing. Jesus needed to rest too. Soooo…if it’s good enough for Jesus…it’s good enough for me. Rest is what makes us ready to go again. Rest brings back creativity, energy and helps our brains focus and work.

I’m excited for the New Year, I have some hope in this coming year and I’m able to see the hope because I’m not burdened by work. More to the point I’m not burden by the exhaustion that work brings. Work is good, we should work, it brings glory to God. But work brings exhaustion and exhaustion is a burden. So this year, as I reflect on what it means to be like Jesus, I think it means to rest and rest well.

In the name of Jesus I’m going to use all of my vacation days this year. In the name of Jesus I’m going to try and actually take my Sabbatical that I technically should have taken this past Fall but you know how things slip by. In the name of Jesus I’m going to take time, back away for extended periods of time and let the world exist without me. And then when I am recharged, I’m going to hit the ground running again instead of just trying to crawl from one day to the next.

Ok to recap: Kyle in a cynical dark place for a bit, trying to pull out of it and rediscover what it means to be Christlike…ok we’re caught up to the context of this present writing endeavor which will probably only be three or four posts because I have a habit of becoming distracted from my blog…

I’m an argumentative person. I don’t really like to argue, I just find myself arguing…a lot. I find myself arguing over silly things and I find myself arguing in a very unloving way (because arguments in and of themselves are not necessarily bad). I tend to speak over people, ignore their thoughts so that I can make my point and make sure they know what my point is. I’ve been reflecting on that this afternoon. Why am I like this? Part of it stems from an insecurity that developed in my childhood when my dad would call me “stupid” as he corrected my homework. Can we just all agree that being insulted by your dad is one of the most soul crushing thing that can happen to children?

This insecurity has been within me for as long as I can remember and it drives me to be seen as “smart” or at least “not stupid.” To prove to myself that my dad was wrong and that I am more than he thought then. Thusly when I argue, if I’m not careful (and I rarely am), I have a tendency to latch onto the potential of being seen as “smart.” And thus I close my ears.  The second reason is that I am very competitive and like to win (I mean, who doesn’t like to win? It’s awesome!!).

The weird thing is, being argumentative seems like a Christian thing to do. It’s as if when you start following Christ, you stop listening and just start word vomiting a lot. I know a number of Christians who like picking intellectual fights. I’ve heard a number of stories who say things, rude things… or just plain wrong things, all in the name of speaking the truth. For instance, recently I watched a video where the person claimed “Evolutionists believe dogs came from rocks…if you go back far enough.”

Now maybe there was a time where people who support the theory of evolution actually believed this, I am not aware of this part of the theory and I feel fairly well versed in it (but I also recognize that I’m not a scientist and thus I don’t know as much information as I possibly could). But what I imagine is more accurate to the situation, because I see it happening often, is that this person not only disagree with evolution but lacks respect for the theory or people who believe it and thus, he stopped listening to them a long time ago.

It’s funny how often we don’t really listen to people and just assume we know what they believe or think, even when they say the exact opposite at times (and let’s be clear, the point of this example is not what evolutionists believe but rather people who disagree with evolutionists, if “dogs from rock” is a part of the theory then think of another example of people who don’t listen and are argumentative). Now without making too broad a statement about other Christian followers (and thus turning it into one of those “boo Christians from a Christian” blogs). Maybe the argumentative nature in Christians I mentioned earlier is just the narrative of negativity that my cynical nature is drawn to. Maybe I’m just argumentative and want other Christians to be so as well so I don’t feel so bad. I’ll simply admit that I am argumentative.That in my insecurity I stop listening to people. And I don’t believe this is the way of Christ (instead of looking at the barbecue sauce on someone else’s shirt, I simply choose to acknowledge the barbecue sauce on my own). 

This week, I gave our youth group a booklet with the birth narratives of Jesus to help them find deeper meaning during their Christmas Holidays. I also included the opening prologue to the Gospel of John and I think it has much to say about “Christlikedness.”

John writes,

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being 4 through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” 1:1-5

Let’s take a moment to reflect on this statement. Jesus, being the Word of God, is the power through which all creation has come into existence. Literally nothing exists without Christ. After this brief introduction, John introduces a villain “the darkness.” The light of Jesus shines into the darkness but the darkness cannot extinguish it. The word John chooses here has a duel meaning, for which John intends both. The word can mean overcome (extinguish) and also understand. Darkness cannot overcome the Light nor does it understand the light. I would also add that because the darkness cannot understand the Light it will never be able to overcome it.

This speaks massively to my insecurities. Regardless of whether or not I am actually “smart” or “stupid” I have a secure place in the one who never is overcome by a darkness that only pretends at grasping reality. While this may seem offensive, the reality of darkness is that it think it is not as wise as it thinks. It’s truth, it’s goodness, is a shadow a pale grasp at that which is actually truth. And perhaps that is why it is so hostile to light. It follows a principle of “the loudest voice wins.” Darkness only plays at wisdom, so it fools us by trying to appear mighty, intelligent…strong.

I don’t need to yell at other who disagree with me (honestly has my loudness ever overcome anyone’s heart? Has anyone ever really been transformed because a Christian screamed at them?). I don’t need to have the most words, the last words, the loudest words because my words are built upon the strength of Christ. The light will never be overcome or be truly comprehended by the darkness.

The power of Christ can be quiet and peaceful to be planted and take root in the lives of others. If it is forced, it might grow but only on a shallow level. It will not produce fruit that keeps with righteousness. So as I reflect on what Christlikedness looks like from John, I think it’s peaceful and quiet. It’s mirroring the one who creates and sustains and who has done so since the beginning. It is a quiet confidence that is not afraid to engage people calmly. It is not afraid of what others may say or believe or think. It simply comes into the world and begins to slowly create and transform, regardless of how the darkness behaves.

I’ll continue my reflections on John 1 sometime later this week. I love vacation…it gives me time to think, process and reflect. Why don’t I do these more often?

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