Archive for September, 2014

Sticky Faith?

I saw the sadness in their eyes.

I was speaking at a church last Sunday on the subject of “Passing on the Faith.”  Since they had spent four Sundays on “Family Matters” based in Deuteronomy 6—the pivotal passage on parenting in the Bible—I chose as our follow-up text a few verses from Psalm 78:3-7:

“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. . . so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  Then they would put their trust in God.”

I love the multi-generational hope extended here. I love the pattern for passing it on.

But still, I saw the sadness in some eyes out in that congregation.  Many pairs of eyes, actually.  And I know where it came from.  It came from struggling hearts, grieving hearts.  Hearts of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and pastors and friends.  Hearts that had held out great hope for the children in their lives.  Hearts that had wanted very badly to “pass it on.”  But they were watching kids—teens and young adults and even not-so-young adults—make some very disappointing choices, not showing much external evidence, if any, of a life of faith.  

Recently  I’ve been reading Sticky Faith, an excellent book by Kara Powell and Chap Clark on how we can build a lasting faith in our kids.  It’s a great book, based on extensive research as to what makes faith “stick.”  It’s also full of  helpful suggestions and powerful strategies for parents, churches, and anyone working with kids today.  I highly recommend it.

But still, the question lingers, and I see those sad eyes.  Why, Oh God, do I know so many parents who have truly poured themselves out to passing on the faith—and still their kids are wandering?  Or running?  Yes, praise God, I also know many kids who grew up in “sticky faith” homes and churches who are shining examples of faith passed on.  It’s just those others that I can’t get off my mind—and never from my prayers.

It’s that dangerous gift of free will that God gave us, isn’t it?   Our kids grow up to make their own decisions.  And they have to find, eventually, their own faith, and establish their own walk with Jesus. 

Does this mean that there’s no point in giving our all to raising “sticky faith” kids who we pray will love Jesus above all else?  Of course not.  It’s our calling as parents.  It simply means we never forget our highest parental call: to pray for our kids—first, last, and always.

It also means we never forget Who ultimately sticks with our kids, pursuing them, pursuing them, pursuing them always with His infinite love and powerful grace.  

It’s why I looked out over that congregation on Sunday and reminded them of what they already know: God is not finished yet—with them or with us.  And what did Paul say in Philippians 1:6?  We can be confident that God finishes what He starts.  

So we get out our knee pads and stick with our prayers for our kids, knowing Who ultimately sticks with us.   

When the Garage Door Goes Down . . .

It’s that time of year again. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. Schools have started. Churches have launched “Vision Sunday.”  Fall programs are beginning. Calendars are filling up. And everyone—especially moms—seems to be on the run.

Lives look full to overflowing. We’re connected all over the place. Not just through our smartphones, but right here in our communities—through the classroom, the gym, the coffee shop, the carpool. Or are we?  

When the garage door goes down . . . well, maybe not so much. I suspect—in fact, I’m quite convinced—there’s a lot of loneliness amidst all this busyness. A lot of emptiness on the other side of that garage door. Oh, I know, I know, folks are connected all over the world via the internet: texting, tweeting, emailing, posting statuses, checking Instagram. We’re overconnected, if anything.

But are we, really?  Who knows when you’re hurting via Facebook?  Who brings a meal when your kids are sick and you just had a miscarriage?  Who sees—across the internet—the tears that lie just below the surface when you talk about missing your family?  Who hears the pause in your voice when you’re asked how your kids are adjusting to school this year?

It can be pretty quiet on the other side of that garage door. A couple of statistics our pastor quoted Sunday back up my suspicions: one in four Americans say they have no one to talk to about their joys and sorrows.  One in four!  One in two say that, outside of family, they have no one to turn to in time of need. Yes, that’s half.

beautiful woman looking out through venison blinds

So . . . why do we need Mom to Mom? Why do the leaders need it just as much as the member moms? Why do we need to be on the lookout in our neighborhoods, on our playgrounds, and in our churches for people who, though they look busy busy busy,  are feeling lonely on the inside—and maybe a little scared?

It reminds me of a church we visited when we had just moved to a new part of the country. There was a shelf labeled “For lost and lonely Bibles.”  How about lost and lonely people, I wondered?  Or how about folks just needing a listening ear, a shared laugh, a word of encouragement, a helping hand, or just someone to walk alongside?  Where do they go? 

To Mom to Mom, I hope.  At least some of them. If they get invited.  

So this Fall, instead of just assuming all those busy busy people around you have all the community and support they need, take a chance.  Invite them to come along with you to Mom to Mom.  Or tell them about the group at your church.  Or invite your neighbors in for coffee.  Or a book club.  Or a Bible Study.  Extend a hand through that garage door. Then stand back and watch what God will do.

A New Favorite

cindy-livethesewordscover

As soon as I began reading, I knew it was going to be a new favorite.  My friend Lucinda Secrest McDowell (known to me as Cindy) had asked me to read her new book in manuscript form and possibly endorse it.  Knowing Cindy and her writing, I knew I would like the book.  I just didn’t know I would love it — and eagerly read it again as soon as it was published.  And now, a third time . . .

Live These Words: An Active Response to God captivated me, first, because I love words.  And the words in this book are powerful because they are not only Cindy’s words, but words from God and from a wide range of great “fathers and mothers of the faith,” both ancient and contemporary.   Each of the 40 short chapters focuses on one action word (come/trust/wait/hope/pour) and is based on one verse of Scripture.  A great start.  

But each chapter also includes wonderful quotes—wise and penetrating words from folks as diverse as Pooh and Piglet to St. Anselm and Teresa of Avila to Frederick Buechner and Richard Foster and Ann Voskamp.  And each chapter ends with a prayer, again from a wide variety of sources.  The prayers alone are worth the price of the book.

Cindy’s own words are also very real. She shares from her own life with a transparency that welcomes us to walk alongside. And her words are full of grace:

“I spent half a lifetime trying to do enough for God. Enough that He would love me, accept me, and find me worthy to share in His Kingdom work.  But I could never quite get it right. . . . Many years ago, God took me through a ‘grace tutorial’—teaching me how to accept grace as His free gift, one that I can never earn and never lose.”

She shares that gift with her readers. 

This is a book for both contemplatives (or would-be contemplatives—who of us really get there?) and activists.  Frederick Buechner observed: “The magic of words is that they have power to do more than convey meaning; not only do they have the power to make things clear, they make things happen.”  (This is the first quote in the book—and one of my favorites. How can you not love a book that begins with a Buechner quote?)  Live These Words helps make things happen.  Each chapter motivates us to action by including some practical suggestions and exercises for giving feet to our words—and more importantly, His Words.

So this is a book for both Marys and Marthas.  And a good book for moms and leaders of moms with limited time.  Each chapter is short and self-contained.  Great devotional reading—or a perfect book to stash in your bag and pull out while waiting for car pool kids to finish a practice or at a doctor’s office.

Live these Words: a new favorite, a new challenge.  Thank you, Cindy! 

 

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