Archive | July, 2013

How to Discourage Young Adults from Attending Your Church . . .

29 Jul

I know you all realized I was being ironic with the title of this post . . .

However, sometimes we older adults need to be reminded of how hard it was to be a young adult member of a congregation.  Sometimes you just wish to be taken seriously and don’t seem to find that happening . . .

And . . . I can remember some things I did as a young Christian and a young adult (I was both at the same time) that would have caused the older adults to not take me seriously.  Honestly.   

Like the time I seriously stood before our pastor’s wife, as she was pregnant with their fourth child, and stated that I believed it was irresponsible to the planet for anyone to have any more than two children.  I thought I was giving my political views.  How could I have missed the part where I was mentally stabbing her in the back.  Really!

That aside, though, I weathered my youth and so will today’s young adults.  But will they weather it within the church or as an outsider?

The first point I have found myself making a lot in recent days is that young adults, like everyone else, like to be encouraged in the good things they are doing, not discouraged about their (sometimes) obvious need for growth.

They are no different from the rest of us.  If you would find a remark discouraging if it were directed at you, so would that young adult who is facing you at the moment. 

That should not be so hard to understand (a little empathy goes a long way), but sometimes it just is.

It is far too easy for some of us older adults to assume we have a parental/scolder role in the life of every young adult we meet.  And we fail to see that we eventually cause them to stop listening to us and then, perhaps, to even leave the church to get away from us.

I must say that my pastor of my youth, and his wife, exercised remarkable graciousness in just letting my silly remarks about population control slide!!!  Sure, the pastor could have written a sermon about silly, non-Biblical thoughts that students pick up in college, but he did not.  Neither of them argued with me.  They simply didn’t respond to my remarks.  I learned later on how very ungracious my remarks had been.  But no one embarrassed me about them at the time.  I figured it all out for myself later.

My companion point to my first one is that young parents need to observe that their children are welcomed in the church!!!  That does not include overhearing nursery workers debating about who is going to get “stuck” in the nursery that night!!!

I was once headed to a major exercise at my base where I would be working outside all day, perhaps without a break.  I stopped at a local McDonalds at 6 AM to get a takeout breakfast and latte.  It was a newly remodeled facility, so I was excited to see how clean and pretty it was inside.  Until . . .

There had been a worker who had not shown up for work due to illness or something.  As I arrived, second in line, the two workers there were openly quarreling about who was going to wait on the person in front of me.  As I stood there, embarrassed, four more people joined the line behind me.  

After almost five minutes of hearing them quarrel while their customers just stood there, I looked at the two employees and said, “Let me make your life easier for you.  You don’t need to wait on me.”  I headed for the door.

The two people immediately behind me said, “Nor us” and they left, too.

Now, lest you think I just let it slide (because those employees ultimately got what they wanted–less work to do–as they are not paid bonuses for waiting on more customers), I did contact their corporate office about their behavior, offering corporate a chance to apologize.  When they did not respond, I never went back (but at least they were informed about why they lost my business).  

That business model shows pretty pointedly why people won’t come back to church if they see nursery workers quarreling about who has to be stuck in the nursery with the children.  No one wants to think that their children are a burden or that anyone feels “stuck” with them.

We need to show a loving representation of Christ in how we care for the smallest churchmembers.  It is the way to the heart of their parents!!!

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Bring It: A Review of “A Step of Faith”

27 Jul

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“A Step of Faith” is only available from private sellers on eBay and Amazon, but is worth seeking out.

It is the true story of Ernie and Gail Mills, who founded the Durham Rescue Mission and have run it for almost forty years.

It is a paragon of private investment, with the Mills couple turning down all federal aid due to their desire to freely preach the gospel at the mission.

The book includes numerous interviews with those whose lives have been changed or even saved by the ministry of the mission.

Ernie and Gail believe in treating homeless people and addicted people like family. That love shines through on every page.

“As you do unto the least of these, so you do unto Me . . .”

Bring It: A Review of “Raven Queen”

27 Jul

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“Raven Queen” is a readable, fast-moving account of the life of Lady Jane Grey, targeted to a teen audience. Teen audience novels are often exactly right for me, at age 55.

It is more historical fiction than most novels, introducing a fictional boy named Ned whose voice alternates with Jane’s in telling the story. He is of the nobility but remains Catholic in England after King Henry VIII has outlawed most Catholic practices. Nevertheless, Ned and the staunchly Protestant Lady Jane fall in love.

As Jane is forced by her parents into a politically advantageous marriage to Guildford Dudley, then forced to reign as Queen of England for nine days, Ned’s voice remains behind the scenes, narrating the approach of the Catholic Lady Mary, coming to London to reclaim her rightful throne and to eventually execute her cousin, the former Queen Jane.

This book is a quick and entertaining summer read.

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Maintenance of my Weight Loss: Life in the Real World Seven Months Later

26 Jul

Maintenance of my Weight Loss:  Life in the Real World Seven Months Later

This photo is of me, having my piece of mile-high cheesecake that I have gotten every month since embarking on my weight loss of over a hundred pounds in January 2012.

I now eat the cheesecake approximately every three weeks. But it is about the only sweet I eat. So it is the best of both worlds, motivating me to stay away from sugary substances most of the time . . .

That is where the rubber hits the road. I am now on my eighth month of maintenance after my weight loss. Maintenance will last the rest of my life, because if I decide to leave maintenance, I will regain at least some of the weight I lost.

I know myself well enough to know that is the case.

But I also am overjoyed that I am able to do this with just as much enthusiasm now as when I started in January of 2012. It just feels good to do something that is healthy for me and that allows me to move so freely now, unencumbered by extra pounds.

Praise God!

Cliqueishness and Racism

25 Jul

Our biggest sin as human beings may be desiring to control others and tell them what to do.

That may also be our biggest cover-up and self-deception, because, in doing that, we have to convince ourselves that we are not only okay, but that we are experts whose advice everyone else needs.

Except . . . if we are Christians, our theology declares that we are not okay.  In fact, that is the whole point of why Jesus came . . . to make us alive from the dead.

Anything we have learned from life in Him should make us more humble and teachable, not less so. 

So none of us can claim to be the wise man or woman to whom everyone else in Christianity must look for sage advice on every situation.  

Because we all are going to be in situations sometimes where we not only need others to help us, but where we need to listen to them and learn from them, too.

The above truths underline what is wrong with any groups that practice exclusion.

One such group is an ethnic group, often referred to as a tribe.  If I am in a tribe and am being tribal, I am acting as though my ethnic group is superior to everyone else’s ethnic group.  I am acting as though my group possesses every possible skill that is in existence and has no need for those other tribes at all. 

That is the basis for racism.  Assuming that my tribe (in my case, Caucasians) was created by God to be independent of all other ethnic groups and is perfectly capable of surviving without them.

The Bible shows quite a different picture.  The first century church was clearly made up of many ethnic groups.  Paul even gives names and ethnicities of specific people, which underlines this fact.  And first century teaching clearly pointed out that the church is a body of many parts, all of which have need of one another.

Cliques are a subset within tribes.  A clique is a group that is formed with the express purpose of allowing people to feel special about belonging to that group when others do not.  It is exclusionary by definition.  

There are tons of cliques in middle school but not everyone grows up and leaves them behind.  Every once in a while, there will still be a clique around in adulthood. 

Cliques exercise control by having one or more leaders at the top who more or less dictate to everyone else what they can say or do.  Sometimes the leaders even try to control how their underlings think and feel.  

Remember our greatest sin as humans is desiring to control others and tell them what to do. Clique leaders exemplify this.

Clique members are kept in line by being reminded, explicitly or not, that they are only allowed to belong to the clique and to feel special  if they toe the party line, doing and saying what their leaders want.

Human beings exercising control over each other . . .

Sometimes racism can use the techniques of cliqueishness to control others.  This is subtle when it happens.  

A group, perhaps a political group or even a church, will include members of other races but will put implied conditions on participation.  

“You are only allowed here as long as you toe our party line, including our beliefs on race.  You have to stay in your place and act really grateful that we Caucasians are allowing you a place at the table.”

There is no true Biblical equality there.

The leaders of such a group will, by their actions, show that they still believe that Caucasians are a superior race that really doesn’t need the input of any other ethnic groups.  They will act as though they are merely tolerating the presence of the minority members in their group, instead of embracing them as the unique individuals God has created them to be.

The minority members of that group will seem, from the outside, to be warmly welcomed, yet there will be a strong undercurrent that Caucasians are running the place and anyone opposing the group leaders (almost all Caucasians, no surprise there) will be exiled.

See the difference?  God teaches racial equality in the Bible–that no one race or country has all the cookies and does not need the others.  

Man perverts that doctrine and tries to either teach that Caucasians don’t need the other races at all or that Caucasians are naturally superior to the other races and only need them a little bit.

This racism, and control of people of other races by acting condescending to them as Caucasians, exists in groups on all possible sides of the political spectrum.  

It arises from man’s innate desire to control others and tell them what to do.

And it is sin.

KJV War (and Casualties)

24 Jul

Let me say right up front that I prefer the King James Version of the English Scriptures (KJV)  to any other translation.

But  I also used the New International Version (NIV) for study for around 25 of my first 30 years as a Christian.  

Life works out like that sometimes.  

I understand that there are some deep dividing lines between those who use the KJV Bible for study and the rest of the church, who tended to use the NIV back in the day when I used it, but who tend to use the English Standard Version (ESV) now.

You see, the KJV, being Elizabethan English, never goes out of style for certain folks, while other translations are made and replace each other with regularity in other parts of the church.  

I am not going to weigh in on either side of the issue since they don’t call it a war for nothing!  I have friends whom I regard as mature Christians on both sides of that divide.  

That said, I have a story to share.  You see, our son has high functioning autism, so he didn’t mature as quickly as other children did when it came to preferences, especially in the world of television shows.  

One that he liked to see on video, and really still does at age 21, is Psalty the Singing Songbook.  It is a heartwarming show filled with Christian music.

When we had first come back to the faith of my youth, fundamental Baptist, Joey was shopping with me in the local Christian bookstore when he saw a Bible he liked.  

Now, until this point, Joey had only used Bible storybooks he had gotten as a baby.  So wanting a Bible of his own was a significant step.  He was now turning eight years old.

We left the store, agreeing that he would use his birthday money to purchase the Bible within the next month or so.  

When we returned to get the Bible a couple of weeks later, I have never seen Joey make such a beeline for a display.  He proudly picked up his Bible, a Psalty the Singing Songbook Bible with illustrations from the television show.  

He began to proudly carry it to church.  I was ecstatic to see him so excited over God’s Word.

Until . . .

One day he told me he couldn’t carry the Psalty Bible to church anymore.  My heart hurt, as I envisioned that someone had teased him for having a children’s Bible at age 8.

That wasn’t it, though.  

No, my son had been told that the Psalty Bible was NIV, not KJV, and not only would not pass muster at our church but also was not really the Word of God.

What???

What kind of Christian philosophy prides itself on knocking the wind out of an excited child like that?  He was so proud to carry that Bible.  Who destroys that kind of happiness and why?

Fast forward thirteen years.  Joey is now going off to college to a special needs school that has the requirement that everyone use the NIV as a study Bible with their curriculum.  

Ooooookay!

I looked through our things and, sure enough, found one of my old NIV’s from my college years. My big one eventually fell apart.  But the small one that my Dad gave me when I went off to college, with his handwritten note in it, is still here.  Joey will take that one to college like his mother before him!

He has a small KJV, too, that his very loving Sunday school teacher gave him when he graduated from high school.

My boy is going to be just fine.  

And God’s Word will never return to Him void. 

  

Are All Opinions Equally Valid?

23 Jul

In short, no.

Some opinions are based on reading and research.  

Some opinions are pulled from . . . um . . . the air.

I have a young, liberal friend who reads like a fiend and watches CSPAN as a hobby.  He has often fact-checked my posts.  Where he has proven me wrong, I have either changed them or apologized.

He is a valuable friend, even though our politics do not agree. 

I know many other liberals, and conservatives, whose opinions have not been proven to be worth a plugged nickel.  They only repeat what they hear others say, without inserting any of their own gray matter into the process.  That is a tragedy.  God gave us our brains so we could use them to think.  I am not talking about mentally challenged people here.  I am talking about mentally lazy people.

I have come to a decision that it is okay to push back just a little when people start ignorant quarrels on Facebook, or even in person.  Again, if they are mentally challenged people, mercy would suggest that no one would publicly shoot holes in their opinions (because most people will know they are mentally challenged anyway and take their opinions with a grain of salt).  But when they are fully intelligent people who are not using their brains, I believe it is okay to challenge them to read and think a bit more . . .

Especially when they post those ignorant opinions on my Facebook page.  I believe it is okay to ask for a citation of their sources.  When someone leaves the discussion or defriends me after being asked to cite sources, that action probably speaks for itself.

One instance that will certainly cause me to push back in the future is when I post a status on Facebook with a link that supports it, and someone loudly disagrees with the status while saying things that make it obvious they have not read the link.  Pushing back against that is just common sense.  

“You are entitled to your opinion but you are not entitled to paste it on my page when it is totally detached from the discussion at hand.  And if you haven’t bothered to read the link provided, your opinion is totally detached from the discussion at hand . . .” 

Conspiracy theories are a whole other category here.

I have recently had a local friend unfriend me on Facebook after I called him out, publicly, for publicly putting forth a conspiracy theory calling for whites to “take back their streets” following the George Zimmerman verdict.  

His post, and his source, were racist.  That was obvious because the streets in America have never solely belonged to the white race, nor should they.  Ironically, my friend and his girlfriend both identify with races other than Caucasian.  

Pray for my friend, okay?  I did not disagree with him in order to cause him embarrassment or pain.  I disagreed because the things he was saying could easily lead to blood in the streets, stirring racial warfare from the right.  Just as easily as Al Sharpton could stir up violence from the left.  It is wrong to stir up violence from either side.  That sort of tactic has to be answered quickly and decisively.  And publicly. 

I believe a real friend tells you when you are in error like that.  

And I believe when my friend cools down, he will see that for himself.  

We all need to read (and think) a lot more than we do before we open our mouths.  If not, we will come across as the proverbial fool (from the book of Proverbs!!!). 

The Bible was not just written to help the other guy, ya know?

“It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer . . .”

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