Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Parenting Epiphany

Our son Cannon has recently started crawling and has gone from easily amused to easily distracted by anything and everything.  Embracing his new found freedom, Cannon is exploring every nook and cranny that he can muster up the energy to experience!  Pushing boundaries, stretching limits and growing from his mistakes, Cannon is becoming more and more independent each day.

It's Saturday morning; Bonny & I are chatting about how to best parent our children when we begun to utter some oh so familiar parenting rhetoric..."kids at this stage need to have projects, they need to be entertained so that they don't get into trouble."  As our conversation continued, I began to chuckle.  As a youth pastor I have heard this same sort of jargon for the last 9 years, and I'm sure youth workers before me heard this very same parenting premise.  The goal of youth ministry has been to provide Christ-like options for teens and their parents to take advantage of in order to stay relevant, connected and somewhat passionate about faith in Christ.  The problem with this kind of ministry philosophy and parenting strategy is that they are both too narrow minded; they are short-term fixes.

As I began to dream a little bit about what it would take to stay connected to my children as they grow up, a few things came to mind.  I must be willing to listen; I must be available and present in their lives; I must be willing to engage their personality and I must be willing to share experiences with my children.

When kids grow up and reach the teenage years, it seems as though parents reach their limits...they are tired, frustrated and weary of the battle up to this point.  As our children grow we begin to farm out more and more of our parenting responsibility onto others.  Yes, it's very important to have different voices speak into the lives of our children, but the primary voice that is present, and will continue to be present until they have a family of their own, will be the voice of the parent.  We cannot nor should not expect our children to learn, grow and develop immensely through a program that may or may not reinforce the values, behaviors and practices that are being taught in the home.

As parents, we need to recognize that our responsibility is a 24/7 role.  We cannot farm out this responsibility to others, then hold our breath and hope things will turn out alright for our children.  Instead, we must learn how to partner with others in the formation of our children.  We are not only parents, we are disciple-makers.  Our primary focus must be to demonstrate relevant faith in our home so that our children learn the true meaning of life.  The family doesn't exist as a source of entertainment, but as the source of learning, growth, and formation for our children.  We need to find ways to strengthen the bonds of the family.  This may mean sacrificing the sacred cow we call the program in order to build the relationship.  We may need to begin to schedule family time that focuses on listening to each other, sharing experiences together and learning to engage each other's personalities while establishing a relevant and authentic presence in each of our relationships with one another.

This is the parenting challenge we face moving forward.  I'm humbled and yet excited by this challenge.  Remember that with God all things and possible, even when the impossible seems large and menacing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Life would be so much easier if...

We got a call from Telus today inviting to participate in their promotional program that would entitle us to a free PVR with no added cost to our monthly TV bill.  As I listened to the salesperson give me her pitch over the phone one thing she said stood out to me.  "I would hate for you to miss out on this offer because having a PVR would make your life so much easier." that what we've come to?  Life is easy with PVR?

I sometimes think all the craziness that comes with the frantic pace of life in large urban centers leads us to begin to look for a rest in weird the PVR.  We begin thinking that what we need is something to help us balance our schedule like a technological device that will record our favorite know, the ones we don't have time to watch!!

What if we were to approach life a little differently?  Instead of needing to look for free time in the midst of chaos, why don't we schedule an abundance of free time and work to fill out a portion of our schedule with the things that bring us the most joy, hope and meaning.  Craig Groeschel sums it up best by asking this question regarding our strategic schedule planning, "is this wise?"  If we can use the answer to this question to determine what to give our life to and what to refrain from, I'm not sure we'd be looking for a PVR or any other piece of technology to make our life easier by bringing stability into our world!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You'll Never Walk Alone

Adam, a good friend of mine, has recently introduced me to the rich heritage that is soccer in the English Premiership.  He, being a Liverpool fan, has also coerced me into becoming a devoted follower of the Reds.  One of the outer-lying reasons why I chose to pledge allegiance to the team was their mission statement which simply reads: You'll Never Walk Alone.

I've thought about this statement quite a bit lately.  We've begun an intense three-week study with Jr. High students looking around the theme of spiritual warfare.  There are a few significant passages of scripture that illustrate the reality of this battle, but none more significant to me currently than that of 1 Peter 5:8 which says, "Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

If you've ever had the privilege of watching the Discovery Channel, you may have seen a lion on the prowl before.  There is something awe-inspiring as you watch the lion tracking its' prey.  The animals that seem to fall victim to the lion's clutches are those who become separated from the pack due to injury, inexperience (being young) or lack of foot speed (old age).  What spoke to me about this phenomenon this week is how this depicts what happens in the community of faith in regards to spiritual warfare.  Those who claim to be followers of Jesus who are not connected in AUTHENTIC community with others will be devoured by the enemy.  The pack that sticks together, the community that journeys together, withstands the attack of the enemy.

The issue facing the church today is that we have built up the program while tearing down the relationship.  If you look at the early church, the key reason why new believers were connecting and identifying with this new way of life was because they were attracted to the community, to the relational connection they observed within the community of faith.  If we are to truly gain some ground in the battle of good vs. evil, we must be willing to partner with Christ in developing and deepening the relational connection within the community.

Let's take a page from the LFC play-book.  Let's make sure that no one will have to walk alone by inviting others into relationship with Christ and with the church.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Have you ever wondered what joy really was/is?  I have.  I had the chance to connect with some familiar faces today and as I engaged them in conversation while looking into their eyes, I didn't find any joy.  Their face expressed a level of happiness and the tone in their voice affirmed the same, but the joy in their eyes could not be found.

I love punching words into Webster's online dictionary.  You never really know what sort of definition the site will generate.  Here is one they gave for joy that really sums up what I'm aiming at. Joy: a state of happiness.

I think joy is a way of viewing your life.  If you can find hope, meaning and purpose in little things, joy is the end product of your perspective on life.  For some folks finding joy is nearly impossible because what they pursue and look for hope and meaning in doesn't lead to the conclusion of a joy-filled life, it only leads to the feeling of emptiness.

Anyone can fake happiness the emotion, but can you fake the state of happiness, can you fake living a joy-filled life?  Maybe for a short while, but definitely not for the long haul.  Think about joy in your own life today.  Is your joy fleeing?  Is your pursuit of joy tied to something that is fleeting and doesn't have much, if any, depth to its' meaning?

If each of us can learn to find true joy and live out of that joy, how much calmer would our world become?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Prepping for Lent

During my years at North American Baptist College (formerly Taylor University College - now defunct) in Edmonton I was introduced to the ancient Christian tradition known as Lent.  For those of you who may not be aware of what Lent is, I would encourage you to do some personal research on the subject.

But, for the purposes of this is the condensed "JayFrizz" version of the season in plain English: There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and generosity (justice towards neighbour).

What is key in understanding the Lent season is that it is a precursor to the celebration of Easter (the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ).  The original intent for the Lent season was to provide the believer with a yearly opportunity to grow in one's commitment to Christ.  But, as with all good intentions, what is meant for good can sometimes do more harm.  What I mean is that if our focus during the Lent season is centered around practices and habits, and we do not engage our heart in these exercises...then our actions do not have any merit or any life-changing impact for ourselves.  Lent under these circumstances just becomes another thing we do to to make us feel like we're being a "good Christian."

I watched my college peers gobble up this opportunity to earn "spiritual points" in the eyes of the professors.  Girls were giving up eating sugar in the name of Jesus, while guys were making outrageous commits in an effort to gain leadership credibility with members of the opposite sex.  In this all I learned one very valuable lesson: Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

No matter what we do, we may be able to disguise our motives from our peers, but not from our Creator.  This Lent season, I encourage you to consider what it means for you to grow in your personal commitment to Christ.  Stay connected; stay grounded and stay focused.  May Christ be the center of all you do, and may your inspiration, motivation and desire be rooted in Him.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Few Thoughts from Daniel

I've been working my way through the book of Daniel during my lunch break at work.  There are several things that have recently struck me from this all too familiar story that I don't believe I have seen or learned from it before.

The first thing is Daniel's reputation.  By chapter 6 of this portion of scripture, Daniel has endured serving three different kings in exile from his homeland.  Under each of these kings' rule, Daniel's reputation grants him great influence in the Babylonian empire.  This might not seem like much, but I think this is truly profound when you examine this from a different perspective.  Daniel's story begins with his desire to be obedient to God's leading and call on his life.  In exile, he along with 3 other companions refused to eat food from the king's table and instead were sustained by a diet of fresh vegetables and water.  These men chose this course of action because they were unwilling to allow their bodies to be defiled by being disobedient to God's law regarding an Israelite's dietary needs.  Next, Daniel begins interpreting the dreams of the king even though his interpretation was one that would bring demise to this king's rule.  When praised for his ability to interpret dreams, Daniel corrects this king and reminds him that it is God who gets the credit, not him.  And then we come to the familiar portion of Daniel's life and his incident with a group of lions in a den.  Again, Daniel refuses to allow himself to walk outside of God's intended rhythm and design for his life, and he does so with a measure of grace and humility that each of us can learn a lot from.

In each of these 3 instances Daniel refuses to build his own reputation.  Instead, Daniel gives honor and glory to God, and God as a result of Daniel's humility, increases Daniel's reputation.  There is a lot to be said here about this course of action.  We often engage in activity that is designed to make us noticed in the eyes of others.  In Daniel we see and example of someone whose primary focus and concern was what God thought of his life, and not want his peers or what his reputation said.

How many times are we tempted to walk down the road of personal affirmation?  I recently became aware that I desperately crave regular verbal affirmation from my wife, my kids, my co-workers and others.  I wrestled with this thought initially because I feared that my desire was to have my ego stroked and my reputation built.  But, when I poured my heart out in prayer to my Father regarding this self-discovery, what I learned was that my desire is to see God's hand at work in and through my life, and not to add credentials to my life or my reputation.

For those of you who long to be noticed, let me ask you this: What are you hoping to be known for?  If we can learn anything from the life of Daniel, I believe we should learn that the only thing worth being known for is our obedience and commitment to our relationship with Christ.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Root of it All

Over the last 7-10 days I have had some really interesting conversations about the origin of evil.  This is one the of centerpiece questions in the struggle of faith, I believe.  The answer that one derives from this simple question shapes the way you view the world, people and life in general.  Without an accurate or functional answer to this question, one can easily be caught up in a skewed approach to life.

The other dynamic regarding this question is simply that the answer to it will continue to evolve over time through experience and re-discovery.  What I mean is that even though what you find out today about the root of all evil, what you find out tomorrow may reinforce or cause you to re-evaluate your presupposition.

What I have learned and continue to learn about the root of evil in our world is simply this:  Evil does exist, and evil is not the result of God's oversight or under-sight in His creation of the world.  At the beginning of time, God created the world and called it good.  In the world He created, God ordained room for choice by allowing the first humans, Adam & Eve, to choose to be obedient to God's rhythm and design for life.  As the story goes, Adam & Eve chose to venture out onto their own collective path in search of life to the full by stepping outside of the boundaries God had put in place for them.  And as a result, the consequences of evil affected our world for generations to come...something we call sin.

Now the question is this: Did evil exist prior to this decision, or was it created at this moment in time?  The answer is that evil was a preexistent condition whose roots can be traced back to one particular story that has fascinated many a theologian and Hollywood movie producer!!  The story I am referring to is that of the battle that occurred among the created heavenly beings we call angels prior to the creation of the world.  Angels were God's very first creation, created to worship and serve Him.  One angel, called Lucifer, made the choice to pursue equality with God by recruiting from among his peers, followers who would worship Him in place of their Creator.  Again, a single choice brought with it the consequences of brokenness that we are now forced to live with in our world today.

To summarize, God created choice, allowing the room for evil to exist and therefore God created both good and evil.  Now why would God do such a thing?  I'm not sure any human level of understanding can accurately represent the answer to this question, but here is what I am personally learning about this subject.  God created choice because He did not intend, nor does He intend to force His will upon any part or all of His creation.  In allowing His created beings the opportunity to choose life according to His design, or life outside of these parameters, God created the very thing that we crave and long for in our inmost

Love is a choice.  Love is all about learning to function within boundaries and parameters that bring health instead of death.  For instance, take the example of marriage.  As created by God, marriage exists for the mutual benefit of both parties (opposite gender) as well as for the honor and glorification of its' Creator...God.  When marriage is pursued under these conditions, the choice to love is pursued.  But when marriage is pursued outside of these boundaries, the choice of love is not pursued.  This is the best example that I have found to date to illustrate God's desire and intention at the creation of choice or free will.  God desires for love to be the predominant force that saturates life here on earth.  Love does not exist outside of a conscious choice to live according to a rhythm, design, pattern or system of boundaries.  Therefore, the choice to love is essential in understanding how to live according to our Creator's original intent.

The root of evil is choosing the opposite of love, which is hatred.  When making the choice to hate, we step outside of the original intent for life and fall victim to the oldest lie that exists:  there is no God.  If there is no God, then there is no reason to love or no reason to live.  Without such polar opposites (good & evil) there would be no need for purpose to life and what we do in any part of our existence would not matter.  But because there is and must be reason for life, the choice to love must be at the root of it all, along with the choice to hate and pursue evil.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hebrew vs. Greek

Hebrew & Greek are two classic languages and two classic cultures that can be described as polar opposites of each other.  In preparation for vocational ministry, pastors, leaders and teachers are often invited to study one, if not both of these languages in depth during an under-grad or masters level education.

Here are some of the differences in language that I am aware of.  Hebrew is written right to left, while Greek is written left to right.  Hebrew is referred to as a guttural language.  It takes years to master in terms of speaking.  Greek is difficult, but far less so.  The modern English language has more similarities with Greek than with Hebrew...many of our words have Greek roots (also Latin), but very few (if any) have Hebrew heritage!  Hebrew is the language of the Old Testament while Greek is that of the New Testament (in the Bible).

The differences do not stop there.  There are significant cultural differences between Hebrew and Greek also.  The one that has really sparked my interest in the style of learning in these two cultures.  The Greek style of learning begins with an intellectual premise.  The goal of learning using the Greek mindset is to accumulate more information or head knowledge.  In contrast, learning in the Hebrew culture is the polar opposite.  Learning in the Hebrew way focuses on action more than information.  Learning is therefore formed by doing and occurs as a response to experience.

This difference in learning is so key in understanding what it truly means to love God and love others.  Approaching this concept from a Greek mentality would mean simply gathering more information about this exercise, but not necessarily putting much, if any, of it into practice.  On the other hand, using the Hebrew understanding and methodology for learning, the emphasis becomes more focused on the putting into practice or the demonstration of truth rather than the intellectual interaction with knowledge.  In our modern society, we have adopted the Greek method of learning in a wider scope than that of the Hebrew culture.  Our educational system focuses on the gathering of information, but not necessarily the application of this information.  This style of learning has also filtered its' way into church as well.  The focus of church has become the sermon or the moment of time where the community gathering listens to the oration of one (or possibly more) individual regarding the biblical text.  The focus has become on the gathering of information, or proclamation rather than the demonstration of said information.

There is a buzz word that is floating around in the educational system right now called experiential learning.  This style of learning adopts the Hebrew mindset of needing to experience truth before being able to learn about what it really is.  In our world to date, we have shifted from Hebrew to Greek in our approach to learning and we are now seeing the pendulum swing back to focus more on the demonstration approach.  But, for the most accurate learning experience there must be a balance between both the proclamation (Greek) and the demonstration (Hebrew) in any learning environment.

What this means is quite simple.  My children need to learn that I love them by not only hearing me say it, but also seeing me demonstrate it.  In this same way, our world needs to see that Christ does indeed make a difference in the lives of His followers by not only hearing us say it, but by also seeing us live it.  I call this approach to learning the Grebhew style...a combination of both the Hebrew and Greek classic forms of learning for the purpose of obtaining a more focused and wholistic learning experience.

Monday, February 1, 2010

When We All Work Together

One of my hobbies is writing.  I write in this blog, I write curriculum, I write letters, I write poetry and I try to write music.  Over time I've begun to stockpile the scrap pieces of paper into one digital document hoping that it would be something my kids would enjoy looking at sometime in their life.  I stumbled upon one of my ramblings that made me think and I wanted to share it with you today.

Once More

How am I to breathe restoration
In a world that lives for segregation?
What can one man do to heal a nation
And open hearts to freedom?

It all just falls apart
When I choose to walk away.
It all just falls apart,
So I’m afraid.

How can someone lead in this deception?
With wounds so deep we’re misdirected.
We need rescuing from self-allusion.
Give me one more chance for freedom!

There is something about the human spirit that I'm learning more and more about each day.  When we face adversity, we find a way to come together in commonness to overcome what we face.  Take the devastation in Haiti for example, the world is coming together for the purpose of restoration.  This spirit of generosity and perseverance are gifts we've been given from our Heavenly Father.  When we use them as they were intended, we are able to accomplish great things.  But, when we embrace isolation instead of community, these gifts we've been given go to waste.  It's funny that no matter what age we are we all wrestle with the notion of having to work together for the common good of all, isn't it?