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Posts Tagged ‘Believe’

I LOVE working in the environment of teens. This is my fourteenth year working with teens in Christian schools. This is also the first year (after about a twenty-five year hiatus) that I have been assisting in a church youth group. Did I mention that I LOVE working in the environment of teens?

Teens are teens, though there are trends that come and go, teens themselves are, at their core, very similar throughout the years. They are exploratory, curious, questioning, idealistic, fun-loving, confused, stressed with thoughts of the future, and more.

In recent years I have been noticing something about teens, who have grown up in Christian homes, that has me scratching my head.

They don’t want to identify as Christians.

They may say that they believe in God, and even in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They may believe in the value of prayer, and even go to church every week. They may go to youth group and help in Sunday School.

But, they aren’t sure what, or if, they believe.

Teens today are different from generations in the past in that anxiety, depression, social media pressures and bullying, along with the constant exposure to unreal reality (in TV shows and on the covers of magazines) create instability in their present to the point that they cannot fathom the future.

In a sense they have had their feet knocked out from underneath of them, and they do not have the confidence of where it safe to stand.

This has had me on my knees frequently, for the teens that surround me in my life.

Then, coming home from work this week I heard the words to the song Believe by Mumford and Sons:

“I don’t even know if I believe 
Everything you’re trying to say to me

So open up my eyes
Tell me I’m alive
This is never gonna go our way
If I’m gonna have to guess what’s on your mind

Say something, say something,
Something like you love me”

As I heard the lyrics (above) I started to see teens I know say those words to me. It was as if they were telling me, themselves, what they need (foundationaly) for their own belief.

“So open up my eyes
Tell me I’m alive”

Maybe, instead of telling them what to believe, they need us to show them who to believe, and why. God is not a wishy washy possibility, he is a good father who loves his children, who he created. Teens need to be reminded that they are fully alive, with full possibility and promise.They need to be reminded that that the breath of life is in them, just as tides come in and go out from shore, life is about rhythms, and they are part of the rhythm of the created world.

This is never gonna go our way
If I’m gonna have to guess what’s on your mind

We need to speak to them. We need to tell them of the stories of love, of justice, of redemption. We need to give them hope. Sometime hope can come from a smile, but it is even stronger when it comes from a conversation.

Say something, say something,
Something like you love me

Teens need to hear

I love you.

I like you.

I heard someone say once, if you want to change a teenager’s behaviour, you have to convince them that you like (love) them.

Maybe what teens today need most is for people who proclaim love for Christ to proclaim love for them … in words, in deeds.

believe

“My commandment is this–to love one another just as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

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IMG_1604.JPGThe sign, to the left, perfectly describes my childhood upbringing, when it came to Christmas, and Santa. The rule in our house, growing up, was that if you no longer believed in Santa, you would no longer get gifts from him.

Heck, my younger (but not that much younger) brothers still say they believe in the Easter Bunny, and still get chocolate eggs!

Though I am certain that their are psychological theories about the dangers of lying to your children about such fanciful characters, I am a lifelong believer in the gift of developing imagination, as well as belief in that which is not seen in the hearts and minds of children.

I remember that day. I was about five, or maybe six, when I reasoned that since we had no chimney in our house, Santa must not be real, but that the gifts came from our parents. When I shared my newly found logic with my mum, she replied, “oh, you are so clever! You are right, Santa cannot come down a chimney we do not have. That is why we leave the key to the front door under the mat, so that Santa can let himself in.”

Then, a year or two later when I noticed that wealthier children got better, more extravagant gifts that my brothers and I, and I shared this revelation with my mom. Her response was that “of course Santa cannot afford to give gifts to all the children of the world, so, each year, parents send money to him, and he makes what he can from the money available.

There is, though, a time in the life of each child, when logic erases our belief.

As a decades-experienced adult, I assert that believing in Santa is a healthy foundation.

From this Christmas belief we learn

that not everything can be seen, touched, smelled and understood.

that a time of anticipation, waiting, for something we desire can increase the joy when the waiting is done.

that, writing down what we want can help us to realize what need … what we already have.

that, when we are in deepest need, when the night is darkest, it is a comfort to look up.

that logically hope might seem impossible,

but it is in believing that anything can be possible … with God (Matthew 19:26).

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It is the season of Saint Nick and he is everywhere.images-3

So, Santa is everywhere at this season of the year, and he is not new, and not North American. The story of Saint Nick goes back to the fourth century. In various times and his name has been Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Père Noël and Saint Nicholas.

I admit that, as a Christian parent, it is not always an easy thing to try to empathize the birth of Christ, while at the same time all the world around me shouts of Santa Claus. It is a very difficult thing to try to teach of the greater value of the eternal gifts that Jesus brings while Santa Clause brings Barbie and Lego. Hubby and I have agonized over how to deal with Santa Claus in the life of our family.

When speaking with a teacher friend recently, she shared what she had been dealing with in her kindergarten classroom; two children who did not believe in Santa Claus, and whose mission it was to cast all those who did into a fiery pit. I have to say, her experience confirmed for me that the middle ground perspective on ‘the Claus’ that hubby and I chose to take was a wise one!

For us we chose to neither encourage nor discourage the belief in Santa Claus, just like we neither encouraged nor discouraged the belief in the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Narnia, Secret Garden, or Fairy Tales. Those magical things, places and people take us to delightful, wonder-filled fictitious escapes into our imaginations that help us to grow and develop with with ability to dream.

But, Saint Nicholas was not a fictitious character, he was a very real person.

Saint Nicholas was a Greek Christian bishop in modern day Turkey in the 4th century. He was known for giving extensively to the poor, to children. His most famous gift is believed to be to a family with three daughters. The family was terribly poor and had no financial way to provide dowries for their three daughters of marrying age. Such a situation could result in these three young ladies being forced into slavery, prostitution. The story goes that Nicholas reached his hand into a window of the house, leaving enough money for the three to have dowries to marry. The story further goes that the money fell into stockings that were hanging by the window to dry … yet another rational for the tradition of Christmas stockings.

Although Nicholas was never officially canonized (the process that the Roman Catholic Church utilizes to recognize it’s saints), the day of the Feast day of St. Nicholas (December 6) continues. Much more can be read about Saint Nicholas.

To believe in him is delightful childhood, to know of the God-loving man behind the beard is essential for the imagination to take root, and blossom into putting that faith into our own works of love for others.

images-5

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can faith save him?
If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them,
“Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,”
but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”
Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
Do you see that faith was working together with his works,
and by works faith was made perfect?

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says,
“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
And he was called the friend of God.
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works
when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
James 2:14-26

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I recently got to go to a great concert, by the group Switchfoot. It was something I was so excited about, and they did not fail to impress me.

It was extra special because my oldest daughter came along with me. I could not have gone with her a year ago, because the venue they were performing at was a nineteen and over ballroom, and she would have been too young then.

On the day of the concert I was speaking with a good friend (one who I respect greatly) about the concert that we were to attend later in the evening. I had expressed my excitement over my concert plans, and appreciation that a group of Christians would take their music to the ‘secular’ public, and be enjoyed by them too.

Then she shared her perspective. Her perspective was that the Christian group was “selling out”. That they were watering down their message to the point that it was no longer distinctive as a message from or about God. That they had no place in the mainstream music market.

According to Wikipedia “selling out refers to the perception that someone is compromising their integrity, morality, or principles in exchange for money or “success” (however defined). It is commonly associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream audience.”

As one who is drawn to those who are believers in Christ, who integrate their personal faith, and Biblical principles for life without staying within the sanctuary of  ‘church’, I had to chew on my friends opinions. After all, one of my favorite movie quotes of all time, by Laverne, a gargoyle in the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “you can’t stay cooped up in here forever.” I might even say that this quote by a stone cold, fictitious character is a (loose) paraphrase of Mark 16:15a, “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

Jesus said those words to his disciples when they were huddled all together having an early church potluck. They had gotten word from Mary that she had seen the risen Jesus … and they did not believe it. Then they had heard from another pair who had also seen Jesus … and they did not believe that story either.

These men, who had received their seminary training from the Son of God himself, were not able to muster the faith to believe that God could do the humanly impossible with the one they knew (or did they?) to be the long awaited Messiah. Was it because Jesus had not revealed himself to them personally first? Was it because they felt that they had the only right platform for Jesus to show up to?

Finally, after Jesus showed up at their potluck (notice they did not go out looking for Him), they believed in the risen Jesus. Mark 16:19-20 says, “after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them … the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

Even they, who had been taught by the Savior himself, had to have their own eyes and ears opened to Jesus presence. Maybe, even today, Jesus and His message of hope, need to be taken OUT OF the church (go into the world) to be shared with those who are blind and deaf?

I am planning on chewing on the words of my friend a bit more. I respect her, and her views, and I know that I do not know the answers to every question.

When the lead singer, Jon Foreman, thanked people for coming and allowing them to share their songs of hope, I smiled … because I knew, what the group’s musicians knew, that God was in the house, and you would have to be deaf and blind to not see and hear His message of hope.

(song lyrics from pictures: “Your Love is a Song”, “Only Hope”, “Meant to Live”, “Red Eyes”)

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It is Christmas Break and I am taking this week as a break from blogging (my family is doubtful that I can do it).

So, if you are looking for something to read from me this week, I would suggest one of my favorite blog posts:

Creation Calls Me to Believe

See you in the New Year!

Carole

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