Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

[my confession] i cleaned out my closet

yesterday, i posted a short review on anne jackson’s new book permission to speak freely.the book’s central theme is that we’ve lost our way in the church in not allowing for a place of sanctuary, a place to share our  confessions and brokenness, instead becoming a place of shame and fear.

i think anne’s right. especially for church leaders. until recently, i believed that being a leader meant hiding my weaknesses, ignoring my insecurities and proving to my team that leaders have it all together.

this is not true. of course, it would be great if leaders could always demonstrate confidence and a well-balanced life, and joy in ministry. but that’s not real, and most days not what it feels like to lead. and so, i’m grateful for anne jackson’s voice encouraging us, the church leaders, to lead by sharing both our broken and redemptive story.

and so, my own sort of personal confession. a few months ago, i did something crazy. and wild. i cleaned out my closet. and by “cleaned” i mean i got rid of every piece of clothing that hung in my closet. because i worry a lot about what people think of me. and i worry that they think i’m not good enough. and i like to balance those fears with a nice healthy dose of image management.

and clothes were my way of managing my image. different clothes for different occasions. always choosing the right clothes so that people thought the way i wanted them to think about me.

that was up until recently when i realized all of this, and decided that i no longer wanted to choose clothes based on fear, i wanted to chose clothes that made me feel beautiful, and comfortable, and were just right for me. no one else, but me. so i cleaned out my closet, donated 6 large bags to goodwill, and sold 6 large bags to a local thrift store (12 bags is a lot of fear and insecurity!).  and i started over. bought a small amount of new clothes one piece at a time, only things i absolutely loved and that make me feel truly like me. i bought some fancy new hangers, and the picture above is the result of my newly-made-over-closet. because, i want to lead with a spirit of freedom, and honesty.

what about you? what’s your own personal confession? and how can we lead well by sharing both our brokenness and healing?

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[review] permission to speak freely

i’m thrilled to be a part of the book blog review today for anne jackson’s new book permission to speak freely.

in may 2008, anne jackson asked a question on her blog,“what is one thing you feel you can’t say in church?” hundreds responded. everyone had a story.

permission to speak freely is the artistic collaboration and movement of author anne jackson, who is through with keeping brokenness in the dark. bringing to light the original intent of god’s sanctuary as a place of help and healing, anne reveals that through confession, both to god and to others, we can live lives that are whole and healed. told with disarming transparency, anne shares what led to her own addictions and the ensuing lifestyle that left her wounded and withdrawn.

1. i really enjoyed this book. it’s creative. honest. personal. a breath of fresh air.

2. i recommend this book. buy it for yourself and a friend. and talk about it with each other.

3. tomorrow’s blog includes a few of my own personal reflections after reading the book.

4. today’s blog includes a short review on my two favorite essays:

sanctuary: i absolutely devoured this essay as anne described the way church was intended to be: a refuge, and a safe place for everybody especially those who are the most broken. anne writes a condensed version of church history beginning with the christian church adopting the right of sanctuary in the fourth century, through the time of slaves, village townsmen, women, and children taking refuge in the church, and up until current church culture in which most people must choose church not as sanctuary but as a place either for conforming or escaping. the word sanctuary connected with my spirit, and reminded me that i want to be a catalyst in reclaiming church as a place for healing, confession, and redemption.

the gift of going second: the whole book is fantastic, but totally worth the cost if only for this chapter. anne describes the gift of going second as “an experience whenever somebody confesses something, and they’re the first to do it. it’s usually a pretty hard step to take. they don’t know how people will respond. they fear all the judgement and isolation. but they do it anyway. they give a gift.” i love this! usually when i’m with a friend who i know is struggling, i’ll ask questions – “how are you?” “what’s going on with..?” i’ve always thought this was loving, and thoughtful, but after reading this essay, i’m wondering if i put the other person in a tough spot when i ask questions without sharing my own confession first. when we allow others to go second, we level the playing field and share in both the brokenness and the healing. fantastic.

tomorrow, a few reflections on how the book affected me. for today, if you dare be so bold-add your own confession on thewebsite.

disclosure: thomas nelson publishing sent me a free book in exchange for a blog review.

reflections on vacation

this last week kelly & i had the most fantastic vacation. we spent time together doing our very favorite things in our most favorite city, and now feel relaxed, refreshed and ready to bring our filled spirits into our regular-every-day, back-to-normal-lives.

our lovely vacation culminated at the end of the week with a wedding celebration for our great friends sean & sarah. we first met both sean & sarah just four years ago when we chose a brand new home church. this particular church was the first church that kelly and i chose together as a family, neither of us had been raised in the specific tradition, but from the beginning knew that this place would be just right for us as we continued our faith experience as adults. sean was the first pastor who took us to coffee and taught us everything we needed to know about the presbyterian faith, and participating in committees, and growing in faith and leadership. we quickly became great friends, and upon meeting his girlfriend sarah, we watched as a very special bond amongst the four of us grew.

and just a few nights ago, while celebrating sean & sarah’s wedding, and sitting at a table with some of our closest friends from the church – i was overwhelmed with emotion, remembering those early days of our church experience. at times, it was so difficult to choose this new church, apart from our families, in a place where we knew absolutely no one, and feeling discouraged walking home so many sundays wondering how long and how much effort it would take to develop significant friendships and truly deep community.

and yet at the wedding, i looked around the room at a handful of people who have walked life with us these last few years in such deep and profound ways; the woman who helped us re-think our finances, and the pastor who challenged us to give our best gifts to the church, and the couple who reminded us how to laugh and dance and experience everyday joy, and the friend who always remembers the littlest of details in our lives, and as i looked at each of these people, i was again reminded that choosing the right church and the right group of people to trust your life with are always worth the effort.

[5] real world parents: ages 11-12

happy friday! happy blackhawks stanley cup championship day! and, of course day 5 of our real world parents blog series.

today, wendy douglas shares her thoughts on encouraging failure while raising tweens.

“please lord let my children be successful at failure.” isn’t the usual prayer of a parent, especially not the parent of an eleven or twelve year old.

preteens or “tweens” are at the in-between developmental stage where they are in the process of sorting out all the information and values they are exposed to. they are reaching out, questioning, and testing. children at this age are in a time of transition while facing more “adult” issues at an earlier age and beginning to make decisions that will have long-lasting implications. they are constantly evaluating whether or not they are fitting in and receiving approval. this is an opportune time for us as parents and those in children’s ministry to help them define success and failure in god’s story.

success in god’s story means something very different than that of the world’s story. the world views success as how much we do and have materialistically while god’s story is about what we do and have in relationship with him. our view of this has to be through the eyes of god and not people of the world. this is something that has to be addressed with preteens as this is the age where friends and media become the basis of self-view.

from mark matlock’s book real world parents:

“our ability to trust god and become more and more like jesus comes through our experience of loss. and often that includes our failures. ‘consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.’ james 1:2-4

failure is one brand of trial. james tells us to embrace the trials because they lead to trusting god and trusting god-perseverance in faith-is the definition of success for a jesus-follower.”

an important part of success is failure. as parents and leaders we have many conversations on success, but very few on how to fail well. the first step has to be addressing a child’s innate fear of failure, and that fear can paralyze, slow down, and diminish faith in god. then, we need to stop minimizing the impact of failure. many times we are too quick to put a “band-aid” on it and move on. lastly, we need to stop being afraid to fail in front of our children. they learn best by our example.

having this conversation with preteens is a way to help them define themselves and what success is by who god is. encouraging them to have a radical faith-living and walking in god’s story.

so i will be that parent that prays that my preteen is successful at failure.

thank you, wendy! such a fantastic perspective. grateful for your encouragement and challenge today!

wendy douglas: also known as saved sister 7 on both on her blog and twitter, is a children’s leader at summit church kidz in tennessee. she is a wife and mother to 4 awesome guys!

[4] real world parents: ages 9-10

day 4 of the real world parents blog series,and it has been a great week! if you’ve missed any posts, you can catch up here & here!

today, doug olson discusses ideas for parents with children ages 9-10. may it spark fresh thoughts for you today!

i recently read real world parents by mark matlock. as a parent i was impressed with how at ease mark made me feel. as a parent of 3 boys, ages 13, 11 and 10 and a girl, age 8, i often find myself questioning everything. knowing that i am held accountable for the spiritual development of my kids, everything from school choice to what they watch on tv to what they hear and repeat is constantly being evaluated and reviewed for it’s appropriateness. matlock put me at ease when he showed that each family’s dna is different. how encouraging!

matlock shows us that we all need to make a decision: do we follow the world’s story or god’s story?  as a parent i know this, the problem is how do we move to make the decision to follow god’s story for our kids. this is especially important for children ages 9-10 as these kids are learning how to make good decisions and use wise discernment. matlock suggests a series of questions that can be applied when kids are trying to make good media decisions. start by encouraging the child to consider, “should i watch this?” knowing that they should or should not watch a certain show is something a 9 and 10-year-old kid knows. but matlock suggests pushing the conversation further by encouraging children to make good decisions based on these questions:

  • have I had enough already?
  • have my parents said no?
  • will consuming (watching, listening or playing) this media make it easier to sin or do good?
  • will it make me struggle with fear?
  • will it cause me to struggle with sexually (yes even at 9-10 years old!) inappropriate, confusing or immoral thoughts?
  • will it cause me to struggle with anger? (maybe the biggest question for gaming and this age group)

these are presented as a way to help our 9-10 year olds think about their media saturation whether parents are present to help them or not. these steps are very practical and useful as a parent of these almost pre-teens who are enthralled with the world’s story. the hope is for them to be enthralled and live out god’s story.

i like the way matlock was straightforward and descriptive in his presentation of tools for parents to make sure the whole family is following and living god’s story. matlock was very particular in not making us feel like failures because we are messed up in our parenting. our kids were not born with instruction booklets. god did not spell out how to raise our kids. i was impressed with the practicality, specificity and ease of implementing some serious spiritual direction in our kid’s lives.

thank you, doug! a fantastic tool for helping our children make wise media decisions! lemon lime kids’ readers, i would love to hear from you – what are some resources you offer parents with children ages 9-10?

doug olson: doug is the father of 4 awesome kids(3 boys and a girl), married to his beautiful bride for almost 19 years and a teacher of the mentally impaired. after serving his current church as part time cm director for 4 years, doug is currently seeking god’s direction into a full time children’s ministry position with emphasis on families and parents.

[3] real world parents: ages 6-8

we’re continuing on in our real world parents blog series, today wednesday is day 3 and our focus is on practical ideas for parenting children ages 6-8. in his book, real world parents mark matlock refers to the home as an embassy. he writes, “our homes are embassies, safe havens, sources of hospitality, places where people can come and learn about our heavenly country. about the king who really saved us and whom we serve and follow” (p.66).

this idea of the home as an embassy really connected with me while i was thinking about the early elementary aged child. at this age, kids are actively involved in school, sports, music, art, and tons of activities with friends. it’s important for children at this age to have a safe place where they can relax, feel refreshed, and know they are unconditionally loved.

i love this practical idea from mark on how to create a safe environment at home.

it’s called a family toast! and the idea is to help families practice verbal communication in a safe and positive environment. here’s how it works:

plan on having a toast at a family meal once a week for as many weeks as you have eligible people in your household. assign each person (including the adults) to give a toast in honor of another person in the family—making sure nobody gets left out. the toast should be prepared ahead of time, be five to ten minutes long, and include the following elements:

  • a brief description of the family member’s history and current activities
  • a few words about some of that person’s best qualities or achievements
  • at least one personal story that shows that person in a positive light
  • optional: a verse, a prayer, or a blessing offered on behalf of that person

also, be sure to enforce the idea that this is not a “roast.” nothing should be presented that is unkind or potentially hurtful to the “toastee.” this is about honoring another person out loud and on purpose.

beyond that, encourage creativity. jokes and humor are important parts of giving speeches. quotes from famous people or the bible are often helpful. and it’s essential to keep this little toast to a maximum time; it’s never welcome to talk much longer than your audience is expecting.

a family toast as a practical way to verbally affirm children! i love it! have you tried this in your home? would love to hear how it went, or any additional ideas you have for considering the home as an embassy.

this activity and many others can be found at real world parents activities.

[2] real world parents: preschool

yesterday, we began the real world parents blog series. today is day #2 and our topic is practical ideas for (non) traditional parents of preschoolers. i believe that most parents have a desire for their children to be people of great moral and spiritual character. and sometimes, i fear that in church we have a narrow picture of what it means to encourage faith in all types of families. hopefully today’s post will offer a few practical ideas!

what i’ve noticed at my own church is that parents are quick to return to church and desire a life of faith once they have young children, regardless of how far they’ve walked away from the faith. so how can we encourage spirituality in families with young children, specifically (non) traditional families who have a desire to raise faith filled children? i think mark matlock offers a great starting place in his book real world parents.

in the context of creating a great story that each family is telling, mark refers to a study done by researchers christian smith and lisa pearce, in which they identified things that have to be in place for kids to become spiritually healthy. while the study was done based on the faith beliefs of adolescents, i think the same applies to preschoolers:

1. strong & clear expectations w/boundaries, demands and accountability: the study shows that kids benefit most from understanding why those lines are there and what greater purpose they serve. effective parents are proactive about the parameters, and hold their children accountable to them.

imagine if we encouraged (non) traditional parents of preschoolers to think about the expectations they have for their children, and then offered training for holding their children accountable (this, i think is the hardest part). might be a great starting place for inspiring faith in the home.

2. emotional warmth & closeness: the study showed that children who experienced the truth that they were loved, were typically spiritually healthy children. parents showing love through quality time, touch, smiles, and gentle words were more likely to create an environment of warmth and closeness.

i think most parents desire this but often don’t know how to express warmth to their children, especially if they weren’t raised with their own needs for closeness met. what if we gave parents practical tools like: an idea each day on a calendar, or a simple text encouraging them to hug, or read, or play with their child, or what if we matched parents with mentors who expressing warmth came more naturally to?

3. cognitive autonomy: allowing kids to push back with their own ideas in a context of safety and acceptance often encourages children to have a firm faith foundation. the study found that developing cognitive autonomy helped kids develop a vibrant faith of their own.

now, of course preschoolers are pushing back, right? but, wouldn’t it be great if we offered training and encouragement for parents so they knew just how to create a safe context and allow for some healthy push back? by offering resources in engaging in healthy debate with young children, or encouraging children to make their own decisions and then discuss the consequences, or even how to handle temper tantrums in a way that makes them productive, we might really start to encourage this type of environment!

so, of course this is just the beginning of the conversation. we must continue to discuss how we can encourage faith in (non) traditional families. these are just a few ideas to get us started!