Who’s Your Village?

Photo Credit: hans pohl Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve come to learn that it really does take a village to raise a child. In fact, my dad and mom always said that their “success” in parenting really had more to do with the people they surrounded us with than anything they did. Not sure if I completely agree (I think they made some right choices along the way). Either way, they were certainly onto something. When I look back on my childhood I can remember the missionaries, the pastors, the small group leaders, the coaches of high character and integrity that surrounded my upbringing. It’s not surprising that all of us “children” grew up to serve God in various ways in full-time vocational ministry.

The adults in out lives were more than just friends. They were more than just people to hangout with and friends to have near while we tried to “survive the troubles of life”. They were influences. They were partners in parenting and childrearing.

Our life was not easy. We had struggles like every other family. We had times when we had “enough” and there were times when we struggled financially. There were times of health and times of sickness. Throughout my childhood, my parents kept the main thing the main thing. They raised us kids with a purpose in life that was beyond ourselves. It was beyond the “typical”. They raised us with the belief that God was calling us to more. He was preparing and leading us to make a difference in this world… to offer hope to people who were far from Him.

Aime and I are right in the middle of raising our six kids. They range from a senior in High School to kindergarten. We’re trying hard to surround them with key influences… people with strong character and an outspoken call on their life to make a difference. Sometimes this means we have to make the tough choices to change these influences by changing where we spend our time. These choices can be tough in the moment, but we’re banking on it paying out in the long run.

So, just a challenge here –

Who do you choose to surround your children? What kinds of people have influence in their life? What things are they striving after?

These are important questions because chances are …

Your kids just might grow up to look like them as much as they will you.

 

Feeling lost as a parent? Looking for a way to discover the purpose for your family? Wanting to establish family values, set goals, or just need a tool to help you keep the main thing the main thing?

We’ve got it for you (Right Here)

I Think Everyone Should Be a Christian… It’s Not Too Hard

Light in Darkness

I had a conversation the other day with a good friend about the Church (with a capital C) and Christianity here in America. If you know me at all, you can imagine that most of it was sarcastic. Though, thinking back over the conversation… I’m afraid too much of it was true… or at least could appear to be true. The conversation went something like this:

“I think everyone should be a Christian…”

Lately I’ve discovered that it’s a lot easier than I previously thought. You see, I’ve discovered that:

Christians don’t have to work on their marriages any differently than non-Christians.

You can still focus most of your energy on achieving “The American Dream”.

Whatever happens in the privacy of your home is really just between you and your spouse… oh “and God too, but He’s not going say much.”

You’re under no obligation to try to meet the needs of anyone other than yourself and your family.

You don’t lose the right to poke, jab, and /or criticize others who have hurt you.

You don’t have to even mention if something popular is wrong or considered sinful, after all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

You don’t have to worry about having to become a priest, pastor, missionary, or anything like that. There’s really only a few people who have to do that kind of stuff.

There are a few hang ups, but they’re not too bad:

You gotta be pretty good at looking “not so screwed up” on Sunday.

You need to continually work on the art of passive aggressive language and behavior.

You don’t need many, but a few Bible verses are always helpful to have on hand.

And you’ve gotta remember where you are and who you’re with because context is everything. (What might not be ok in one context doesn’t necessary mean it’s always wrong.)

But most importantly, here’s what YOU GET when you’re a Christian:

People are generally nicer to you at church.

If you can figure out the whole context thing, people are really going to think you’ve got your act together. (Especially if you’re willing to put a little “time in” and help out with the kids once in a while.)

You get start off each week fresh… almost like a clean slate.

Ok, enough sarcasm! You get the point.

Here’s the thing. I love Church. I really do. If you would have asked me a few years ago, I’m pretty sure I would have only been able to tell you all about my disappointments with it, but now, I can honestly say I love it. For starters, it’s God’s tool to change the world. He really doesn’t have a plan B… The church is it. Like it or not, Christians are called to live in this world as light in darkness.

The danger with being light in darkness is this though:My eyes get accustomed to the dark.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a sick child. I got out of bed, and helped my son. I then went down stairs and got water and made it all the way back up to bed. All of this was done in near pitch-black darkness. Now, while I was walking around, it didn’t seem too dark. There was the light from the outside lamps. The moon was also shining in pretty strong, illuminating the whole house.

…ok, it was dark, but my eyes had grown accustomed to it, and I adjusted.

I can’t help, but to look at my own Christian walk and ask the question: Where have my eyes adjusted? Am I still light? Or am I simply just not looking as dark as everything else. Am I living as though I believe that my life as a follower of Jesus can look the same as the world?

What to do when you’re BUSTED

Christian Parenting

We’ve all seen the signs. “NY or BUST!” “England or BUST!”…”Ethiopia or BUST!”

That last one is the sign I was holding last Thursday when I had to make the difficult decision to postpone our trip to Ethiopia a few more months. Yep! That’s right… I’ve been BUSTED!

To make a very long story short here’s basically what happened last week.

First of all you must know that this decision was not made out of fear. It wasn’t made out of fear of the Ebola Virus. It wasn’t made out of fear of others reactions to our team upon returning. And it certainly wasn’t made out of the fear of the uncertain future.

This decision was made thoughtfully and prayerfully. I can honestly say that this was the very first decision in my life that I actually anguished over. Here’s what happened and our response:

A little over a week ago, a nurse carrying the Ebola Virus traveled though Cleveland and Akron visiting friends and family. In response to her visiting friends and family, Kent State (30 minutes aways from Fellowship) closed part of their campus as a response to possible contact. The next day, 2 schools in Solon (5 miles away from Fellowship) closed as a response to possible contact. Later that afternoon 2 other schools in Chagrin made national news as they closed as well.  Immediately, area Schools began issuing email blast stating their possible response if an outbreak occurs and then to top it all off, a member of our team needs to pull away from the trip.

Our community began to move into crisis mode. Whether or not it was justified, our community has become keenly sensitive to the potential dangers.

Ultimately what led to the decision was answering one simple question: What is the purpose of the trip?

From the very early stages of development, the purpose of this trip was to draw our church together in a clear direction and partnership in ministry in Ethiopia with Horizon International.  Due to circumstances out of our control,(Community reaction to Ebola) the best opportunity to move the church towards this goal shifted from this vision trip in October to a trip this coming Spring. Although the team of 4 (3 pastors and 1 lay leader) is still willing to go, it has become abundant clear that God is leading us to postpone the trip until many more people can join us on the trip both physically as well though prayer and excitement. If our team was go ahead and go to Ethiopia, it would need to be quietly and discretely… which is exactly the opposite of what we want for this trip.

This decision was made only after seeking counsel from many people both here in Cleveland as well as from our partners in  Africa.

If you know me well, you understand my disappointment.

I love Ethiopia. It has become like a 2nd home to my wife and I. Not returning as expected was very difficult. With that being said, I want to offer some words of encouragement to you. These are the same words of encouragement that was given to me by Jonathan Morton, the Director of International Ministries at One Mission Society (OMS) and a good friend.

When it comes to the tough decisions you need to remember that it’s not your job to make a decision. It’s your jobs to seek God and discover 3 things:

God’s Will – what does He want us to do

God’s Timing – when does He want us to act

God’s Way – how does He want us to act

So here’s how we did this:

Pastor Chris, my Lead Pastor, and I begin to talk and pray about possible options

We spoke with:

All team members and Pastors

An experienced Elder who possesses both wisdom as well as a passion for Africa

The Horizon International Go-Team leader in South Africa (who was joining us in Ethiopia)

I also spoke with several ministry peers from around the country.

Most importantly, Chris and I spend Thursday night fasting, praying, and searching scriptures for Gods leading.

After all of this, the next morning, we came together and made a very clear decision to postpone the trip until Spring 2015.

We sought God’s Will, His Timing, and His Way and He showed it to us.

It was a tough decision, but I’m thankful that it wasn’t mine.

When you’re convinced that God wants you to do something, go somewhere, or act a certain way it’s s important to take the time first to seek God’s will, God’s timing, and God’s Way.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Please continue to pray as we’re currently making plans for our next upcoming trip next March/April.

Navigating Parental Peer Pressure

Christian Parenting

Photo Credit: Curtis Cronn via Compfight cc

Your pre-teen is asked to go to the movies on a “group date” and you feel uncomfortable with it… but you know every other parent (who happen to be your friends) seem to be fine with it. What do you do?

Every year there seems to be a new strategy for overcoming peer pressure. When I grew up it was “Just say No!” Now it’s something like “Make a Difference” and “Stand Out”. Why is it that this always make sense to us when we’re talking with our kids, but when it comes to our own lives as parents we struggle.

Peer pressure is real…and it’s really tough on parents. Don’t believe me? Just take a walk through the mall and watch parents as they sheepishly following their kids from store to store shaking the heads is disapproval …and yet carrying armloads of bags filled with over-prices, under fabricated clothes that resemble something worn by Madonna. (Side note: when did parents become cool with Madonna?) Anyway, the point is simple and we all know it: we feel pressure to conform to other parents every day. So how do we handle situations where our gut is saying one thing and our mouth wants to say something else?

Here’s 5 things that should help

What’s the Purpose?

If you know me at all you know that I’m all about helping our kids have a purpose for their lives bigger than themselves. The very first line of defense in fighting parental peer pressure is to know whether or not this activity is even something you should be considering. I’ve been floored with the number of times I’ve spoken with parents about whether or not they should allow their 16 year old to drink or smoke marijuana. (You think I’m kidding, but I’m not!) Their line of reasoning? “Well they’re going to do it anyway, at least if they do it in my house I can make sure their safe and not driving or anything stupid like that.”

Ok… that’s just plain dumb. What do you know? Drugs are illegal and bad. It’s a no brainer. But what about a movie? “Whatcha going to see?” Generally, a lot of pressure can be relieved right away if you had a personal conviction on the kinds of movies you’re kids are going to watch and which ones they’e not.

How do I set these boundaries for my kids? Simple, we want our kids to be “Owned by God”. We value things like Integrity, Grace and Wise Choices (we actually have 12 core values as a family). If this movie pulls us away from our goal or values… it’s a No Go!