Strong Start: Family, Future, and Marbles

marbles-1421822-1279x1699[GUEST POST: Andrew Epp ~ Family Pastor]

On Sunday we continued in our series on starting 2016 strong, and specifically in the area of our families. During the sermon we journeyed with a family via video and watched their baby grow up and eventually move out, showing us that there are different phases in life and we need to make sure we don’t miss them.

If you missed it you can find the video’s and the presentation here:

Here are the 5 questions we looked into on Sunday:

  • How am I connecting my child to a wider circle of influence?
  • Who do I want my child to become?
  • How am I fighting for the heart of my child?
  • How has spiritual development been part of our family rhythm this week?
  • Is my relationship with God, growing, authentic and personal?

Here are some of the main points that we discussed on Sunday:

Parenting priorities

  • What matters more than anything is that my kids have an authentic relationship with God.
  • My wife and I are not the only adult influences my children need.
  • My children need to know that I will never stop fighting for a right relationship with them.
  • My relationship with God and with my wife affects my children more than I realize.
  • Just being together can never substitute for interacting together in a meaningful way.

No one has more potential to influence your child than you.

  • You are the primary influence in the life of your child.
  • Teachers, pastors and coaches will never have as much potential to influence a child’s character, self-esteem, perspectives, or faith as a parent does.
  • That teacher pastor or coach will have influence that is temporary, your influence as a parent will be permanent.
  • Your relationship gives you the potential to influence in ways that others cannot.

You are not the only influence your children need.

  • tap into other influences that also have the potential to impact your children’s future.
  • You can leave your children alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them proactively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.

Two combined influences will make a greater impact than just two influences.

If they work together they can potentially make a greater impact than if they work alone.  

The 5 questions at the beginning of the page are focused around 5 values come from the book Parenting beyond your capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Value 1) Parenting Values Widen the Circle

  • Invite others to invest in your children, so that your sons and daughters have other voices that help shape and determine the direction of their lives.
  • The time will come when your child needs another trusted adult who would give them a safe place to wrestle with difficult issues.
  • The church has huge potential to provide community for children. Research tell us that teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives were more likely to keep attending church and that the more adults the better.
  • This community gives them a sense of belonging and significance.
  • It allows mentors to DO ministry with the child and serve with them.
  • Widen this circle as early as possible before children need them so that they will be there when they need them.

Key Question: How am I connecting my child to a wider circle of influence?

Value 2) Imagine the End

  • Focus your energy and effort on the issues that matter most and will make a lasting impact.
  • It is more important to leave a legacy of faith rather than an inheritance of wealth.
  • Moses said everything I have said and everything I will say hinges on one essential truth: our God is God. Everything is really about Him.
  • A child’s relationship with God is more important than their relationship with parents. That they would pursue a relationship with God as their highest priority.

Key Question: What do I want my child to become?

Value 3) Fight for the Heart

  • Create a culture of unconditional love in your home to fuel the emotional and moral health of your children.
  • Sometimes it is easy to win an argument and force the right behaviour, but lose the heart in the process.
  • Don’t fight with your children, fight for
  • One of the greatest gifts parents can give to their children is simply to prove that they can be trusted over the long haul.
  • Key Question: How am I fighting for the heart of my child

Create a Rhythm

  • Tap into the power of quality moments together, and build a sense of purpose through your everyday experiences.
  • Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.
  • Much of daily life consists of repeated patterns of waking up, eating, going out and going to bed.
  • Deut 6 talks about impressing faith as we sit at home, walk along the road, lie down and get up. Consider the following ideas:
    • Eating meals together is an optimal times to have a focussed discussion. Use a variety of discussion starters, games and activities, before, during or after a meal. Make it natural and fun.
    • Walking or travelling together provides a great opportunity for informal dialogue in a nonthreatening environment.
    • Tucking children into bed can be a great time to have an intimate conversation and listen to the heart of your child.
    • Getting up in the morning provides a blank page for the family to start fresh relationally. Just a few encouraging words carefully spoken or written can give your children a sense of value and instil purpose.

Key Question: How has spiritual development been part of our family rhythm this week?

Value 5) Make It Personal

  • Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.
  • When it comes to spiritual and character formation, your journey impacts them deeply. If you want it to be in them, it needs to be in you.
  • Let kids see your struggles. They need to see your authenticity and hear your transparency.
  • We are not expert parents before we start, but we learn as we go and we make spiritual growth a priority.
  • Find a community of friends who you to talk to and learn from.
  • Strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Don’t underestimate the importance of a child seeing a mother and a father engaged in friendship and interacting in an affectionate way.
  •  Key Question: Is my relationship with God, growing, authentic and personal?

 

Finding God on Your iPod: The National and Learning to Lament

On Sunday we looked a song by one of my favourite bands called “The National”. And the song we explored was called “Sorrow”.

The reason we looked at this song was because this was the song that I played on repeat again and again when my dad passed away. It was a song that for me got tied to that dark and difficult time. The singer sings, “I don’t want to get over you” and that was so very true in my life.

He also sings, “Sorrow waited, and sorrow won”. And that was also true in my life; sorrow seemed to be winning.

And that’s really what we wanted to explore on Sunday, how do you move past sorrow? How do you overcome sorrow that grips you? How do you move forward?

And the answer is found in something called the lament.

The lament is really a type of prayer. A brutally honest, bring up the raw stuff within, kind of a prayer. Lament, if it’s about anything, is about honesty. But rather than discuss what it is, we looked at an example of lament in Psalm 39.

Psalm 39 is where David wrestles with maintaining silence before God, and expressing his hurt, anger, and accusation at God. David begins with maintaining silence, in fear that he might sin in what he says (v 1). But this doesn’t last for long because silence can’t last forever. And instead, out comes a torrent of expectations, longings, and hurt.

Listen to some of the raw stuff he says,

Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me. I am silent before you; I won’t say a word, for my punishment is from you. But please stop striking me! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand. (v. 7-9)

Or

Leave me alone so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more.

These are some brutally honest lines. David accuses God of punishing him, ignoring him, or not rescuing him when he should. And he ends with this line, that if God doesn’t help, at least leave him alone so that he can smile again. Being left alone by God is better than being rejected and punished by God. Or so David thinks.

Now do I believe that God is the one punishing David, or that God “strikes people”? No. But that’s not the point. The point is that David brings all that he feels, right or wrong, and brings it openly and brutally honestly before God. David’s reaction isn’t to avoid God, but to bring his accusation towards God. And this in itself is an act of faith, and hope. That even in bringing his desperation, hurt, and anger that God might hear and act.

This is lament. Being brutally honest with yourself and with God about what you feel and where you are at.

And this is what we need to learn. We do not lament. We hide, we paper over pain, we bury pain. We do not address pain and loss. But the truth is that if we want to learn to ever heal or move forward in sorrow, we need to learn to lament. We need to learn to be brutally honest with God and ourselves. And this is something that not only does the Bible authorize, but suggests. One third of the Psalms are complaints, laments, or Psalms of disorientation. Their very existence says that we can come to God with all that’s within us.

So we ended with the main point on Sunday, that we need to learn to lament. And for some of us this might take some really practical points. We might need to journal and let the hurt out. We might need to let a song speak for us (like “Sorrow” which is a modern day lament). We might need to lament with others either in a structured group, or with close friends. Or the best way is maybe to just read the Psalms and let them express our feelings to God.

The point is that if sorrow, grief, or difficulty ever grip and grab you, the way out isn’t to pretend it’s not there. The way out begins with one step. It begins with lament. And life and healing might be a long way off, but lament is the step that begins a journey. And it’s one we need to be okay to take.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to learn to lament.

Teaching Points:

  • You are never ready for grief.
  • “I don’t want to get over you” – The National
  • Lament, if it is about anything, is about honesty.
  • David brings what he feels, not just what he knows, to God.
  • Within lament, even when you accuse God, You are still hoping in God.
  • To the extent we have not learned to lament, we deal superficially with the world’s brokenness, offering quick and easy fixes that do not require our conversion. Chris Rice, Emmanuel Katongole
  • We need to learn to lament.
  • Learning to lament has helped me find healing.
  • Lamenting can be journaling, sharing with others, having a song express your heart, or reading Psalms to lament.
  • We all take each other too much for granted. The routines of life distract us; our own pursuits make us oblivious; our anxieties and sorrows, unmindful. The beauties of the familiar go unremarked. We do not treasure each other enough. Nicholas Wolterstorff
  • I have been . . . grievously wounded. So I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see. Nicholas Wolterstorff

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Was it awkward for you to talk about grief and sorrow? Have you ever experienced sorrow? What was it like for you? Have you ever “lamented”? What might lament look like in your life?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today let your kids teach you. Ask them what they do when they are hurt, and angry, and in sorrow. Kids are much more open and we can learn from them.

Challenge for the Week: Learn and practice the art of lament.

Delivering Movies and Doing It Right

10562975_10154540150185643_1634620271199633372_nMy kids aren’t perfect…by any means. Just come spend a day with us, and you’ll see. Actually, just come spend an hour and you’ll probably see that. We’re not perfect parents by any means. We love our kids, and do our best – but sometimes it doesn’t seem to work. Asher and Hudson fight, Asher refuses to eat and screams, Hudson refuses to share and throws his toys, or like any parents the kids have a meltdown in a grocery store.

I have a theory that if our kids are going to meltdown and lose it…there is always someone else around to see it.

But all that aside, sometimes my boys get it right. And when they do it absolutely makes all the timeouts, all the talks, all the time spent with them just so worth it.

The other day our neighbor was sick, like really sick with a fever so he couldn’t play with Hudson. So we went back home, and Hudson disappeared for 30-45 minutes. He was quiet up in his room…too quiet. This is normally when we’d go and and discover that he painted his room, or he painted his brother or something.

But instead, what we discovered was he was making cards, getting his favorite toys together, and his favorite movies into a bag. And he came and said that all of this was for his neighbor friend. I asked him why he did this and he said, “Because Daddy, when people are sick we help them. That’s what you said right? Did I do it right daddy?”

And of course your heart breaks a little bit with happiness, and you say “Of course you did it right – let’s go give it to him”

So I write all this to say one thing. No ones perfect, and there are moments when we fail and screw up as parents. But there are also beautiful moments where they grow, get it, and so surprise you that it just makes it all worth it.

How a Community Can Launch its Kids

8402_10200932844870242_211848675_nOn Sunday I shared with you three things I think are key in raising and launching kids from our faith community.

The first key I shared was alignment. This is simply where our values line up with our actions. Kids pick out incongruity and hypocrisy like little magnets. We need to ensure that if we are going to have any influence that our values line up with our actions. So often we end up asking our youth and kids to value something we don’t practice. So to ensure this doesn’t happen I challenged everyone to ask this question often: are we living what we are asking? So are we living with grace? Are we living with integrity? If we want our kids to grow up serving, caring, reaching out, and changing lives – it needs to start in our lives.

The second key I gave was ownership. There is currently a move to deeper and deeper outsourcing. You can outsource your marital fights online now. The trouble is that as you outsource things you are giving responsibility to another party or group. And in the case of our youth, they matter too much to ever outsource their development to the school system, social workers, daycares, or even to our local youth pastors. These things are all good and valuable as supports and professionals; but supports and professionals are never a substitute for engaged parents and caring communities. So we need to own our personal responsibility in raising the kids entrusted to our care. Therefore, each Christian needs to ask “how can I contribute to launching our kids well?” What can you do to ensure the next generation thrives and succeeds? Can you be a mentor, can you give your time, your resources, your care and love? If we are to launch our kids well we need to own our responsibly in raising and launching.

And the last key to launching our kids well was that we need each other. The truth is that the world teaches our kids that living for money, self-satisfaction, or happiness is important and fulfilling. Unfortunately this isn’t the gospel. The gospel is that living for others, and living for something worth dying for is the reason to live. Stanley Hauerwas puts it this way: What we do when we educate kids to be happy and self-fulfilled is to absolutely ruin them. Parents should say to their kids “what you want out of life is not happiness but to be part of a worthy adventure, you want to have something worth dying for”.

And this is why we need each other. We need a faith community that practices and demonstrates what this type of life looks like. We need new role models, and heroes. We need everyday ordinary people who follow Jesus in the reality of their lives. We need each other. So I ended with encouraging each person to share their story of why they find following Jesus compelling, how they are doing it, and what they are learning. Because if we are ever going to be a counter-culture to the world of fame, wealth, and self-interest, we will need to share our stories.

So those were three keys: aligning our lives with Jesus, owning our responsibility, and working as a community. There are surely others, and things you might add. But I think it’s a pretty good start. But if you were to add anything what would it be? Because this is a conversation worth having…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Launching the next generation requires: alignment, ownerships, and togetherness.

Take Aways…

  • We have all been influenced by parenting for good or bad
  • If you are a Christian you are a parent – modeling, and living an example for the kids around you
  • Christians, single and married, are parents. “Parent” names an office of the Christian community that everyone in the community is expected faithfully to fulfill. Stanley Hauerwas
  • Three Keys to Parenting: Alignment, Ownership, and Each Other
  • Alignment: Having our values line up with our actions
  • Are we living what we are asking?
  • Our youth need role models…they need you
  • Ownership: Taking responsibility rather than outsourcing
  • Our kids matter too much to give our responsibility to raise them away
  • Each Other: To create a community that makes faith real
  • What we do when we educate kids to be happy and self-fulfilled is to absolutely ruin them. Parents should say to their kids “what you want out of life is not happiness but to be part of a worthy adventure you want to have something worth dying for”. Stanley Hauerwas
  • Application:
    • Am I living what I’m asking?
    • How can I contribute?
    • Share your story

Adult / Group Discussion Questions What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? What was your life growing up with your parents? What about your parents “parenting style” would you like to use or leave behind? What other keys do you think there are to launching our next generation well? In what areas are you “living what your asking”? In what areas aren’t you? How can you contribute to raising and launching this generation well? Who can you share your story with?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and sit down with your kids and talk to them about today’s message. Share with them how you want to live with alignment and if they notice you saying things your not practicing to talk with you so that you can change. Talk to them about the models and examples of faith in the church, and why following Jesus matters for you. Lastly ask them how you can help them – how you can contribute to launching them well. Ask what they need and how you can help.

Challenge for this Week: Walk with alignment, choose to contribute, and share your story with someone.