Fun Times

Sitting in court this morning (my job, not personal), I had ample time to find constructive things to do…like check Facebook, write a blog post, clean out my inbox… What did people do with their waiting time before all this technology?!?!  I vaguely remember those ancient days.

Anyway, in my inbox I found an email from a laser tag place to which I used to take my former church youth group…back when I was young and innocent… No, really I was just extremely naive. Here’s part of the email:

Here is an activity that is sure to unleash the fun at your next Youth Group gathering!

The name of the game is “Never Have I Ever”

Follow these simple instructions and have a blast!
1.       Everyone holds up one hand.
2.       Go around the circle and one at a time, each person announces something that they have never done, beginning the sentence with the phrase “Never have I ever…” For example, a person could say, “Never have I ever been to Europe.”
3.       For each statement that is said, all the other players drop a finger if they have done that statement.
4.       The goal is to stay in the game the longest.
5.       To win, it’s a good strategy to say statements that most people have done, but you haven’t.

Doesn’t that sound like a fun game to play with a group of teenagers? If you can’t imagine it, let me assure you, it is. Although we did the game differently, I have played it many times with my regular, church kids…the kind that have grown up in their family home and have, at least on occasion, attended church. They somehow knew what was and was not appropriate to say they had never done, which others may have. “Never have I ever: sang a solo, ridden a horse, drove a truck, climbed Stone Mountain, etc…” You get the idea. Perhaps these precious babies played the game differently at non-church parties. But they followed protocol at church.

And then one day I started working at a group home for troubled teenagers. Some of these kids LOVE to go to church and participate in youth group. So I take them. And one evening at youth group, we played “Never have I ever.” I probably will never do that again…lol! That’s when I found out how naive I was in my experience and expectations of “unchurched” kids; you know, the ones we say we want to reach? Turns out these kids are competitive…and adept at surviving… and some were not afraid or ashamed to use what they knew about the other contestants to win the game. Because I have been desensitized to what these kids say and do, I was not as shocked as I should have been… I think I even laughed. It was funny. I also stopped the game really quickly.

Here’s the rub and the question for you to ponder today: how do we reach out to hurting, disadvantaged children and include them in our “good, wholesome” activities, exposing them to love and grace and positive influences while protecting the children we currently have from negative influences brought in by the new kids? I’m open to suggestions. Please comment.

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Changing Our Want

     I want to eat to eat what I want and be thin.
     I have had to face the reality that not everyone’s body responds to food the same way. Some people are able to eat whatever they want and stay thin. This is not a blessing or gift I have. Actually, I guess I should say, some people appear to be able to eat whatever I want to eat, and while I would immediately gain a pound of fat, they metabolize it efficiently and stay thin. Truth be told, most of these individuals probably have a lifestyle in which they eat a lot fewer calories, and burn a lot more, on a regular daily basis than I do. For instance, my youngest son eats all the delicious carbs (bread, Mac and cheese, ice cream, etc), fried food, sugary drinks, pizza, chips, etc… he wants to eat, rarely touches a vegetable or fruit (never a salad), and is just as thin as he ever was. But he doesn’t eat often and he walks miles, I mean MILES, every day. Food just isn’t a THING to him. It’s not one of his main pleasures in life. Food may not be one of my MAIN pleasures, but I do enjoy it. And knowing the reality of my situation, I can’t do what I want.
      OR, I can change my “want”.
      Paul wrote about wants in Ephesians 7: “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” (Romans 7:18, 19 NLT) And if a grown, educated, wise man such as the apostle Paul had this struggle, perhaps the solution for me is a little more complicated than a “diet” or weight-loss program. Perhaps the answer is to let the Holy Spirit live through me.
     “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all.)… The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” (Romans 8:9, 11-13 NLT)
    There is a whole lot more in the 2 chapters than I touched on here. But this is a good start for today.
     I’m also going to make Post-It notes for myself that say, “I want to take care of this body God gave me.” “I want to use my time for God’s purposes, and accomplish the tasks that benefit His kingdom.” “I want to do what The Lord tells me to do and bring glory to His Name.” But first and foremost, I am going to write, “I will live by the Holy Spirit inside of me and NOT by my sinful nature.”
     What about you? What do you need to write on your Post-It notes today?
*name changed
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“THE CURSE OF WORK” – August 16

“THE CURSE OF WORK” – August 16

This post did not just speak to me, it shouted. How I wish I had taught this lesson to my children better.


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Christians Are Not Pack Mules

I really liked this post by another author I am newly following at Lessons by Heart. I think this speaks to a lot of us. It certainly got to me. Let me know what you think! And check out some of her other posts, also. You’ll be glad you did.

Lessons by Heart

“Our son, Leroy, has a problem,” Fritz said as he and his wife sat in the counselor’s office.

Dr. Hank’s brow furrowed, and he said gently, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Where is he?”

“Well, he said he didn’t have a problem and refused to come with us today,” Fritz said.

“Hmm. Well, tell me what’s going on,” the doctor said.

Fanny spoke up, “Leroy is twenty-three years old and still lives with us. He has a hard time holding down a job. No one seems to value his excellent skills. They ignore his ideas to improve business, which upsets him, so he quits. Without an income, he can’t keep an apartment, so he lives with us.”

“Yeah, eats us out of house and home, drives our car, and we’re not sure, but I think he’s started drinking,” Fritz added. “During the day, when he ought to be out…

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The Martin-Zimmerman case has caused quite a stir. There are apparently two sides: one saying it was racial, one says it wasn’t. Here’s the thing, either way a teen is dead at the hands of an adult.  Everyone is talking about racism. No one is mentioning “ageism.” maybe that’s not even a word. But I’ve noticed in today’s culture, teens of all colors dress like Trayvon did. And adults of all colors are distrustful of them. Adults have good reason to be. Teens are often impulsive, disrespectful, selfish, and living for the moment. Guess what? Teens have a good reason to be all those things, as well. Adults have left them without healthy supervision and guidance. In the void left by parents and caring family, the media has stepped in and given our children an education to be all of the above. In the absence of families, teens looking for a place to fit in have formed or joined groups. Some of these groups are violent, some aren’t. Some use and sell drugs, some don’t. Some of these groups are known as gangs. Some are just groups of teens hanging out.

I understand how adults feel. I am one. When I see a group of teenagers together, I immediately feel like an ancient outsider that has nothing in common with them, even if they are my own children…and I’ve been working with teens for years! It’s easy to assume they are up to no good. Yet when I spend time with the teens, I find they really aren’t that bad. And when you listen to what they have to say, and maybe even offer suggestions in a caring way, they often respond very positively. Oftentimes they seem to be hungry for someone with more maturity to take some interest in them, to encourage them, to recognize they are capable of doing some good things and making some right choices.

I see this daily where I work. I also see daily what happens when teenagers are left to their own devices after being educated by society, media and their families (or lack thereof) that:

  • they have to take care of themselves,
  • trust no one, especially authority figures,
  • demand respect above all else, and
  • you are somebody only if you are better than somebody else for whatever reason (so put others down because of race, gang affiliation, gender, sexuality, possessions, etc).

So here’s my suggestion to all you good grown-ups out there of any race: find a teen and get to know him or her. Step out of your comfort zone and make a connection. Talk to them, listen to them, maybe even mentor them. This doesn’t mean you have to listen to or like their music, dress like them or use their slang (that would be weird). But do invest in your life into someone else’s. I have this theory: its really easy to judge and dislike a group of people you don’t know. But it’s a lot harder to dislike a person you do know and with whom you have spent some time. And instead of judging, you understand more. By getting to know someone in a different age group, you tear down barriers for both sides.

And one more thing, what better community is there for this to happen than the church? Besides the family, the church is the only “institution” I can think of where all ages are together and valued. Perhaps if more adults reached out to more teens at church, instead of always being divided into different age groups, things would be better.  I don’t know. Just a thought. What do you think?

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Something Supernatural

We humans are fascinated by the supernatural. We love vampire romances, demon-slayers, ghost hunters, etc. We investigate supernatural things as a form of entertainment. I believe God put that interest in us as part of that God-shaped hole which only He can fill. Our openness to the spiritual realm reminds us this world, this life, is not all there is. We know instinctively there is more.

I love the stories of the miracles in the Bible. They, too, are supernatural. Jesus’ first is no exception:

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew…This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. (John 2:7-9, 11 CEB)

The supernatural occurs when one substance changes into an entirely different substance (water to wine) with no apparent natural intervention. Nothing indicates Jesus touched the jars or the water, or that He said anything to or over them. He only instructed the servants. They responded obediently. The miracle, it seems, happened through the servants’ obedient actions.

I propose it happens the same way today. When we respond obediently to what the Lord tells us to do, miracles can happen. Perhaps we need to learn how to listen to and discern His voice. This is my prayer for today.

Lord, give us ears to hear and a heart, mind and body willing to respond obediently to Your Word, even if it doesn’t seem like it will help. In Jesus’ name.

What about you? Are you fascinated by the supernatural? Have you ever witnessed a miracle?

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Getting Our Minds Right

This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand. What Isaiah prophesied has become completely true for them: You will hear, to be sure, but never understand; and you will certainly see but never recognize what you are seeing. For this people’s senses have become calloused, and they’ve become hard of hearing, and they’ve shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them. “Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear. I assure you that many prophets and righteous people wanted to see what you see and hear what you hear, but they didn’t. (Matthew 13:13-17 CEB)

Oftentimes when I read this passage, and apparently when other Christians do to, we imagine ourselves in the same position as the disciples rather than the crowd. I hope we aren’t deceiving ourselves. The crowd saw, heard and experienced this time with Jesus, but didn’t get it. The disciples saw, heard and had the same experience, and understood. But what is the difference between the two? And where do we really stand?
There were a lot of people who came out to hear Jesus teach, in person. So many people were crowding around Him that He had to get in a boat to get some space. They had heard about Him and wanted to come check  Him out. They were hungry for His message. They were in His presence that day just like the disciples were, hearing the same message. The disciples had the advantage of an intimate relationship with Jesus. They didn’t just come hear Him for a day. As “disciples”, they were modeling their lives after Him.

Before I started my devotional today, before I even knew what the passage was, I prayed and asked God to help me understand. The thought came into my spirit and mind that there’s a difference between a “devotional time” and spending time in God’s presence. I have been guilty lately of being busy and just “doing” devotion (daily Bible reading and tossing up prayers as needs arose). However, to make sure my mind is oriented according to God’s kingdom, I have to spend time hanging out with Him. This involves the same activities, but with different intent and focus, and it involves a reorientation of priorities.

Our perspectives and ways of thinking are strongly influenced by those around us. Robert Kiyosaki addresses this in his Philosophy of Cash Flow workbook. He has built a large successful business on the premise of changing people’s belief systems about money. He teaches that belief system drives behavior. With the promise of greater wealth, more financial security, and a happier life, he entices people to follow him and learn a different financial belief system than what has been taught to the majority of people in society. All you need is a “Rich Dad” mentor. Clever.

And I don’t disagree with his philosophy. Our belief systems do drive our behaviors. And our belief systems are influenced and strengthened by those whom we love and/or admire and with whom we spend the most time: parents, friends, mentors, television…and God.

So are you part of the crowd, spending a little bit of time hearing some of His teaching maybe once a week at church or maybe for a few minutes of “devotional time” each day? Or are you a disciple, modeling your life after Jesus, seeking to let Him change your belief systems about pretty much everything, which will drive your behavior and make you very different from the world around you?

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