Archives For August 2013

It has been said that indecision is the greatest thief of opportunity. If I have no goals and no clear direction, any idea that comes my way could be a reasonable option… I can easily get trapped in the studying, analyzing, and researching phase with no productive action taken.

-Dan Miller, Wisdom Meets Passion

Jesus, I’m being robbed blind… Give me eyes to see through the clutter of good ideas (even great ones) and an undivided heart with which to love.

Is Your Mind Made Up Yet?

Culture today is selling our kids a load of lies. Whether it’s the garbage spewed from the VMA stage (which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention for the last 20 or 30 years, and which unfortunately overshadows any real skill and artistry present on that same stage) or the glossy ads holding out an airbrushed and photo shopped version of reality, we can’t count on the larger society to provide the next generation with the substance of truth. I want to dig into a few of the most prevalent lies I’ve noticed lately and talk about a few ideas you can use to reveal truth to the young people around you at work and at home. I’d love to hear from you – share your stories of how you’ve seen these lies at work and what you’ve done to share truth to light the darkness these lies perpetuate.

Lie #1* Money matters and provides safety/security.

You may have heard commercials lately about investing in gold or silver or other ‘precious metals’. They tout the downfall of the dollar and point to gold as a safe place to store your wealth because of gold’s “intrinsic value”. The argument is that your cash is just paper with an assigned value, subject to being re-valued at the whim of whatever market or political power is asserting it’s agenda. Your $100 bill is only worth a hundred dollars because that’s the value it’s been assigned. Gold, on the other hand, has intrinsic value (they say) – a value that stands on it’s own just because of the nature of the object itself (in this case, gold). The problem is, it’s just not true. Gold is only worth something because humanity has assigned it value.

Your kids probably aren’t listening to Glenn Beck talk about gold investing, though, so what’s the point here? It’s that we assign value to money/wealth as if they matter, but the truth is that all money is temporary and can’t provide any of the real security and meaning that we seek in life. Wealthy people die everyday, just like people with nothing. They get to take one expensive suit with them into a small box that will be buried, and every other shred of wealth they’ve accumulated will be given to others. But we’ve bought this lie that money matters, so we trade away our time and efforts for chunks of money called paychecks. We withdraw into offices and cubicles and work sites in order to ‘be productive,’ and we sacrifice relationships with the people we love (who actually DO have intrinsic value).

Thankfully, this lie seems to be losing some traction with younger generations. Global information, available at the touch of a few keys, has revealed a whole world of people who have next to no money, many of whom are living vibrant lives full of meaning amidst the poverty around them. This revelation has been accompanied by a hunger for meaningful relationships, so many young people are refusing to trade time with the ones they love for for money and a couple weeks of vacation each year. But even as they turn their ears from the sirens of wealth, we tell them to work hard in school so they can get into a good college so they can get a good job? What do we really mean? Are we complicit in culture’s lie that money matters? Too often, this is a lie that we adults have bought, too.

Our students don’t always handle this tension in healthy ways, as evidenced by the growing number of unemployed and disengaged youth hanging out in their parents basements playing xbox, but this re-assesment of what is really valuable leaves the door wide open for the truth of relationships: people matter. We need to teach our kids that every person matters, as they carry the image of our creator. And beyond that, we need to teach them how to develop real relationships with people who will walk through life with them as real friends and family.

Here are a few suggestions to try to do just that:

  • Get outside together. We need to step away from the screens that hold our attention and go do something (almost anything) with the young people in our lives.
  • Meet your neighbors.
  • Spend more time at parks and areas where you’ll meet new people.
  • Stop watching commercials that tell you what you need. If you really needed it, would it actually take a million dollar ad campaign for you to realize that you needed it?
  • Stop borrowing money to get stuff you don’t really need.

As I look at that list, I feel like our young people are taught this lie because we’ve believed it and modeled it for them. Let’s model something else.

 

*These aren’t necessarily in any order of importance or anything, just how they came to mind.

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Check out the rest of this series here or each individual post at the following links:

 

 

Keep Your Shutter Open

Mike —  August 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

A couple months ago, a generous anniversary gift landed a well equipped camera in our living room. It came right at the beginning of the summer, so I was able to use it for several weeks of experimenting on youth trips. (The timing was great because I was able to cajole one of my shutter-bug kids to show me what many of the different settings could do.)

Night Sky

One of the coolest capabilities that I’ve discovered is that, with a few adjustments, I can take pictures at night like the one above. When I took it at camp, it was about 11:00 at night in the Black Hills. It was dark. But even in the darkness, brilliance is there waiting to be revealed.

You can only capture that brilliance though, by leaving the shutter open. Instead of a quick “snap”, and the moment is captured, the light is allowed in for a lot longer. The problem is, this leaves you vulnerable to a lot of things going wrong. The tiniest movement will screw up the focus… someone walking by becomes a blurred mess…

I’m still connecting all the dots here, myself, but I think part of why this night-time picture taking is so fascinating to me is because it’s revealing what can’t be seen normally… like my life. I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years thinking, praying, studying, and working out how to unleash potential in students and in the church. It’s a potential that normal people don’t see. Normal people ask me how I do it. “How do you have the energy to spend all that time with teenagers?” “How do you get those kids to work like that?” “How did you know they were ready to handle the responsibility?”

The only thing I can think of is that Jesus has set my shutter to stay open a little longer than normal, so when I peer into the darker areas of youth culture and my students’ lives, I see more than shades of gray. I see brilliance and potential – possibilities and promise.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about why Millennials are leaving the church. There’s a lot of conflicting information and conjecture mixed into the discussion, and I don’t want to add any more, but I wonder a few things:

  • In the churches they’re leaving, did anyone help them see the potential they have to contribute to God’s Kingdom?
  • Was that potential welcomed and unleashed, or set aside and told to wait its turn?
  • In the absence of a church experience that was fulfilling, are they really walking away from Jesus or could they be searching for new and meaningful ways to be His Body?
  • If they are indeed seeking new ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their world today, who will help them find those ways?

This may seem to be a bit of a random connection, and like I said, I’m still waiting for this idea to more fully develop, but would you imagine with me a church full of millennials who were connected in fruitful mentoring relationships with those of us with a little more experience? Will you open your shutter long enough to see the potential and be vulnerable enough to lead them to unleash that potential for the good of His Kingdom first?

Midnight at camp!

Midnight at camp!

This is what midnight can look like!

It's just what it sounds like!

It’s just what it sounds like!

Giant balls filled with glow in the dark sticks at camp.

Giant balls filled with glow in the dark sticks at camp.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s our strategy. We have no money, no clout, no status, no buildings, no soldiers – things are going exactly to plan. We will tell them all that they are on the wrong track: the Roman money and power elite; the revolters; the withdrawers; the collaborators.

When they hate us – and a lot of them will – when they call us names and throw us in prison, even kill some of us, we won’t fight back, we won’t run away, and we won’t give in. We will just keep loving them. We will just keep inviting them to join our side. That’s my strategy. What do you think?

-John Ortberg in Who Is This Man?

If someone wanted to make an impact on their world, this doesn’t sound like a very solid approach. It sounds more like someone jumped into things without thinking it all the way through. It sounds more like someone is desperately trying to hold it together in denial of the obvious fact that it’s all falling apart. But this would pretty accurately portray just what Jesus did with His disciples.

And it changed everything.

The impact Jesus has made on this world cannot be overestimated. And He didn’t do it by schmoozing the power brokers or by growing a whole separate counter-culture on the outside or even by violently overthrowing the government. He did it with a consistent, selfless love for those who were not like Him.

And we can still make a difference today by doing the same. It doesn’t take great facilities or political influence… It doesn’t take being well connected to the right people or having high walls to keep us safe and untainted… It takes a willingness to love our neighbor and our enemy like Jesus.

Want to change the world? Go love someone.