A Dad’s Prayer for the Day

My daughter thinks that when I wake up, I’m excited to meet the day; she thinks that I value the health and happiness of my family way more than the stresses of work.

My daughter thinks that even when it feels like it’s time to cry, her daddy still laughs; she thinks her mother is our hero and that it’s my job to support her in any way I can.

My daughter thinks that I love to play much more than I love to worry; she thinks I’m patient and full of grace.

My daughter thinks that everything I say is sincere and honest; she thinks that I’m the hardest worker she knows.

Yesterday I managed to fool her. Today, may she be right.

Amen.

A Letter to My 2 Month-Old Daughter

Dear Burger,

Happy two-month birthday!

I’ve been gone (not home, that is) a considerable amount during your second month. It’s been hard on some days for us to remember that the calling that pulls/leads me away from you for days at a time is the same calling that provides for you and I to be together a lot more than many daughters and daddies I know.

I’m writing this at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The water is much colder but the sand is exactly the same as back home. It always amazes me how something so far away can be so different and so the same – but I find it happens a lot.
You won’t remember this, but between our mission trip and this conference, I was home to hold your and your mommy for a few hours. It’s incredible how much you changed in just that short time; I wish you wouldn’t do that, but I understand.

Your face seems to have doubled in size, it takes a few more seconds to smother it with kisses. Make no mistake about it, you’re gonna have to let me know three years before you’re ready to stop doing that, it’s gonna take me a while to adjust.

Your cry sounds much different. In a way, it seems much more… Rational(?). Good for you, kiddo! You’re mommy and I are anxious to communicate with you. This guessing what you’re feeling thing is beginning to drive us crazy, even of there indeed are only a few different options.

I want you to know how much I miss being around you, but I also feel responsible for helping you understand how important it is that I not always be with you.

You see, there might be times where you might want or need us, but your mommy and daddy will be working with other kids. This will never be related to how much we love you. It is much more because:

- the time we invest with other students allows us the opportunity to invest more time into our relationship with you. But more importantly,

- we believe God has called us to live a life that is not just about ourselves. Your mommy and I want nothing more than to spend every second of our lives with you. But that wouldn’t behold for you, it wouldn’t be good for us, and it wouldn’t be fulfilling our responsibility. And, if we’re gonna spend our extra non-family time with others, students are a great people to be around. We expect that many of these students will help us love you and grow you in ways that will enhance your life. And perhaps most of all,

- your mommy and I are blessed to be working in the realms we feel called to be in. We could only hope the same for you. We have found our lives to be transformed through the lives of the loving, challenging people that we have known. It is fair, just, and right to attempt to pay that back into the community that will continue to change our lives. We invest what we do away from you on behalf of what we hope for your world to be.

But we’ll work on all that, okay? We’ve got some time.

In the meantime, I’ll see you late tomorrow night. Save daddy a bottle, okay?

Love you always,

Daddy

20120613-162712.jpg

My Daughter Spoke Her First Words!

Okay… So, not really. But it sure got your attention, right?

I needed to get your attention to make an important announcement about the guest-bloggers for the upcoming week.

Tomorrow, 73 of us get on a bus for the Franklinton Center at Bricks tomorrow to begin a Mission Trip that has been in the making for some time.

Beginning tomorrow (Monday) night, a new high school student will be blogging and sharing their reflections from the day, it will be WELL worth your reading time.

As I was reminded today (Graduation Sunday), there is nothing more beautiful than when a young person is willing to share their honest thoughts and sincere feelings.

As for me, well, all the preparation has been done, which is a good thing because there is no more time to prepare. There comes a point where you work hard to prepare so that there is nothing left to do but pray.

I am praying fervently that my hopes and visions for this time together will not overpower or mislead me from the miracles that lie in store for us that are not of my (or human) doing. (see Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian McLaren)

I am praying for those students who are excited, that they might find purpose and fulfillment.

And I am praying for those who are anxious and afraid tonight, that they may find community and friendship, assurance and belonging.

And of course I am praying for safety… I always forget that.

By the way…

for what it’s worth, when I went to kiss my baby girl goodnight/goodbye for the week, she erupted in tears…

… but after a diaper change, she was just fine.

Stay tuned, friends. Wheels up at 5:15.

A Letter to My 5 Week-Old Daughter (#1)

 

Dearest Casey Lynne,

This past weekend, your mother and I celebrated the day that we had marked on our calendar that we were sure was going to change our lives forever. It was the day, your doctors told us, that you were going to be born.

But you came over 5 weeks before that.

So this weekend, I had a chance to think back on the last five weeks and share with you some of the things that have been on my heart:

  • Yes, even to me, it is a little strange to be writing you via this blog. However, this blog has always been a way for your daddy to process information and perhaps it has been a helpful conversation starter for a few others – the same is true for this letter to you.
  • Emotionally/mentally/spiritually, your mother and I were as ready for your birth as two people who don’t know anything could be. We realize that this is a blessing that many do not get. Try to remember, when you’re mad or frustrated with us that we really have tried to do our very best, since the moment we knew you would be joining us. And while we’re on the list of things we’d like you to remember:
  • What makes your mommy and daddy different from each other is what we love about each other. The fact that your daddy talks so much about the same things that you’ve already been told just happens because he’s so excited to be your daddy. The fact that your mother spends a lot of time taking care of details and following through, well, that’s the reason that she’s been able to be with you for an entire four months. What annoys you about us is hopefully what is also going to help us take good care of you – and I think you’ll find that the whole good/annoying thing is true about most people.
  • Never forget the woman on the other side of the curtain. It is not your fault what happened to her, but let it always remind you of how fortunate you are to be surrounded by so much love that you can see and feel. One day, you’re going to be in school with her daughter. Always remember that people you meet along the way deserve your respect for what they’ve been through, and need your love – it will be the first thing you have to offer this world. What your mom and I have been given in you, and what you have been given in the family and friends you have inherited; in both cases, they bring a blessing and a responsibility.
  • When you start talking about boys, there will be three questions that I will ask you (probably before you’re ready): Is he smart? Is he honest? and Does he treat you like a princess? If the answer is yes to all three of these, then I will do my best to be supportive.
  • They say that two things affect who a person is: what you read and who you know. In the past five weeks your mother and I have been humbled to realize such love and support from our family and friends. They are our greatest blessing. They are diverse; a celebration that God’s love comes from places, shapes, sizes, and times that are too beautiful to predict. They are generous; a reminder that behind every “success” lies a village of love that enabled, empowered, and assisted us to get there. They are loving; a reminder that there is ALWAYS more good that we don’t deserve than bad. They are a major part of who you’re mommy and daddy have become, and they are ready to do the same for you.
  • Don’t ever be fooled, your Nana and Abuela run the show around here. They might enjoy being in the shadows of the light that shines on you, but they have set the tone for what our family is – a strong, consistent, stable commitment to those who we are blessed (and challenged) to call family. Family – the ties that bind and gag. Family – the easiest to take for granted but the last to leave your side.
  • Self-confidence is the most valuable line you will ever walk in your life. Too far to one side leads you to a lack-of-self that makes you susceptible to dangerous paths. Too far to the other side leads you away from a humility that is necessary to experience relationships and creation as beautifully as they were intended to be.
  • Think of Kendall Lynne. It is possible to be the only one right. A sense of what is right will never steer you wrong, even if you’re the only one going there. Never give up the opportunity to stand up for what is right – there will be times and people who will need you to continue to defend what is right. You have much more potential in you than you realize.
  • Think of Big Casey. It is possible to have your cake and eat it too. Do not let anyone or any institution narrow you down. Too many people are victims of a simple-minded structure that makes you be “one or the other.” – but it’s not true and it’s not fair. You CAN be an agent of peace AND a fervent fighter for fairness. You CAN be known as gentle AND feisty. You CAN be athletic AND musical. You CAN be smart AND fun. You CAN work hard AND play hard. It’s more work… but it’s worth it.
  • This whole crying thing… we’re going to have to “live into this.” Right now you cry because you need. And later you’re going to find that you will cry because you need AND you will cry because you want. Your mommy and I are going to try and help you realize the difference. The sooner you know the difference, the sooner you know joy.
  • I mean well. I really do. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to ramble on and on and on and on… I’ve always found the best thing to do… is bookmark the page, and come back sometime when you’re supposed to be paying attention in class…

 

A Mother’s Day Sermon

Preached May 13, 2012

Based on Luke 18:1-8

Luke 18:1-8

“18Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

“Mother Up”

On one side of the curtain,in a triage room,lay a young woman in the early stages of labor –all alone, she didn’t make a sound.

In fact, aside from the beeping machines monitoring the increasing contractions, the entire half of the room was silent.

There were no reassuring “I love yous” from a husband, there were no animated “coachings” from parents and siblings,there was no comic relief from coworkers or friends, matter of fact, there wasn’t even a doctor.

It was a scene so exaggerated it belonged in a movie -on this side of the curtain, you couldn’t see the television, there wasn’t even a working bulb in the light panel overhead, -that half of the room, even at 1030 in the morning, was dark and cold.

Now, the OTHER side of the curtain,closest to the door, was the side with the light, and the TV, not that you could hear it, because there were so many friends and family in the room, and on top of that, the cell phones of the mom and dad to be never… stopped… ringing…

It’s fair to say, that had you been on that half of the room, you wouldn’t have known there was ANYBODY on the other side.

As cinematic as it sounds, I know this scene existed, for a fact. I was on the “lit” side of the room. And so was my wife, Pam. We were just a few hours away from the arrival of our little girl who was well on her way, even if she was over 5 weeks early.

The bathroom, however, was ON the other side and as I would awkwardly walk the curtain, I couldn’t avoid seeing this young woman in a fetal position, clutching her cell phone

that never rang.

I couldn’t HELP but notice the cold silence interrupted by her barely audible, slightly strained breaths as her contractions came and went.

 

Now, I don’t know her story… I didn’t ask. Maybe I was afraid of intruding on her privacy, or maybe I was afraid of finding out what her story was.

I can tell you,I’ve prayed about her a lot since then, in many ways out of my own need to process.

“God, forgive me for being so petty, for taking myself out of a situation where I could’ve extended your caring presence; for not being more diligent to take the comfort and concern, the assurance and the friendship that me and mine had been given and been a better steward to at least try to extend that to someone who I was guessing was not getting enough of any.”

And of course, after guilt comes anger!

“Why, God in a world where there can be such undeserved blessing on one side of the curtain, could there be such emptiness on the other side?!”

I have wondered often since then, where God was in that miracle of motherhood.

The more I think about it, I believe, with a considerable amount of peace, that God is in the middle of answering that question, not within me, but within her.

One thing I think we will all agree upon: A mother will always be as tough as she needs to be.

I’m not sure that having a child makes a woman tougher, from my perspective it seems that having a child is often a vehicle for a woman by in which God demonstrates how much a woman is truly capable of.

Outside of the maternity ward, I overheard a new daddy describes his wife this way: “I didn’t know she could be so sweet. And I didn’t know she could be so tough!”

In today’s scripture, Jesus tells of the tough, persistent, “don’t make me turn this car around, because God help me I will”, woman that I think is safe-to-assume a mother too.

Regardless of HOW this widow arrived here, the parable begins suddenly with this woman in quite a predicament. We do not know what the dispute is about or whom the dispute is with, but most believe that this is a dispute over money or property that is rightfully owed to her.

The surprise tension in this parable is the realization that the judge does not act as we have been led to expect from a judge.

To best understand the role of the judge, we can look back to Moses’ charge to judges in Deuteronomy:

“Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien. You must not be partial in judging; hear out the small and the great alike; you shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s”

Jesus is quite clear as he sets up the parable that this authority did not live up to what was expected of him.

And if that isn’t bad enough, the fact that this woman is widowed makes her even more vulnerable in the hands of this crooked judge. In this time, widows were deprived of the support of a husband, yet they couldn’t inherit their husband’s estate which passed on the deceased man’s sons or brothers.

Stephen Dempster writes, “the loss of a husband in ancient Israel was normally a social and economic tragedy. In a generally patriarchal culture, the death of a husband usually meant a type of cultural death as well. Since she was in an extremely vulnerable economic position, she became the prime target of exploitation.”

(Sigh)

So to recap, we find our widow weighted down by a reality that she cannot control in the hands of a corrupt judge who held all the power.

This crooked judge is her only hope of securing justice, and persistence is her only recourse.

Can you Imagine that!,

I know it’s quite a stretch for you and me to imagine, a corrupt leader given a position that they’ve failed to live up to, but let’s try it anyway

Let’s really try to imagine the scenario.

Here we have a dynamic showdown, goodness vs. corruption, power vs. truth, yet another need for liberation in a book whose central themes returns over and over to the liberation of God’s people from the strongholds of corruption and oppression.

THIS TIME, the oppressors is not simply a King or Ruler, it’s someone much more dangerous, a person with authority, opportunity, and responsibility who has turned a blind eye to God’s will.

And Yet, THIS TIME, the victor’s side is not swords and conquerors, it’s not armies or rebels, it’s someone much stronger than that – a mother.

And thank God it was a mother. Who do you know could’ve met the task at hand to both pray lovingly and work tirelessly – except for a mother.

She was willing to show this judge that there was no power, no man who would stand in her way in achieving what God had provided for her.

She didn’t just defeat injustice, she wore it down!

 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”

Leave it to a mother to make it all look so simple!

Clearly, to Jesus, the woman in the parable this morning is the model for how we should live our lives and this story seems to come just in the nick of time for Luke’s audience.

Ron Allen at the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN and believes that this story was a necessary inclusion in order to keep the beginnings of Christianity from unraveling at the seams. He describes the scene this way:

“Many people had expected the apocalypse to take place soon after the resurrection. Luke writes a generation later and it still has not occurred.

Many in the community are drifting away. Tensions have developed within and around the church. The community perceives itself as suffering. In the language of today’s text, many people are losing heart.

I know once again, a stretch.

Once again, it is hard to imagine that people could be so discouraged at the signs of the time that they question whether or not any of it has a point.

Once again, we’re going to really need our imaginations to picture a time when there seems to be more bad news than good news; a time when people were challenging the very exsistence of God.

This new generation of athletes has developed a saying that it meant to bring the very best out of each other they tell each other, to “MAN-UP!”

Friends, if you and I believe in the notion of God, if you believe, as Luke does, that the realm of God is still at work, then, perhaps, as the athletes would say, it’s time to Mother-Up!

I suggest that these times might be the vehicle in which God shows us how much we are truly capable of.

Ya know, they say the first thing a baby learns to visually recognize are facial features.

A good friend of mind confirms this.

She told me that when her son was just a few months old, she would set him in a chair on the kitchen counter as she would cook dinner.

It became pattern that when she would turn away to the stove, the little boy would start crying. When she would turn around and look at him, he would smile. Again, she would turn away to cook – not moving any further away, mind you – and the baby would cry. She would turn around, and the baby would coo and smile.

Her son was crying because he wanted to see his mother’s face.

On a day like today, we acknowledge too that there are those who do not know their mother’s face.

There are those whose mother’s face is a vision of the past.

We acknowledge that there are those who have painful recollections of only the backs of their mothers heads.

We acknowledge that there are mothers working desperately, tirelessly, and in many ways, alone to manage the patient love and tireless work that it takes to raise a child

There are those all around us that feel as if the loving, sustaining, caring face of God has turned from them.

There are those all around us that cry out desiring, summoning, questioning, the very face of God.

Clearly, the early church audience did not throw in the towel – but rather “Mothered-UP”, to persevere love more, do more justice, and walk even more diligently with our God.

And so too, on this special day, I feel of our world is calling for us Christians to “Mother-Up”, to persistently and tirelessly be the loving and restorative face of God for those that cry out wondering why God has turned God’s face.

On one side of the dividing curtain, in a nursing home room, lives a woman named Mary.

If you met Mary today, you wouldn’t believe she was once known as quite the chatterbox, Because right now Mary doesn’t talk much. She can’t afford to replace the hearing aids that have continued to go missing.

You wouldn’t believe that she was the quite the busy-body. Because right now she can’t even push her chair or feed herself.

You wouldn’t believe that she was best known by friends and family for her precocious personality because she now she hardly ever… shows emotion.

At one point, it seemed that Mary’s health was detierating too fast for her to be able to have the chance to meet her first great-granddaughter. But, she was able to recover, at least to the point of not being contagious, and a meeting was arranged.

Mary’s nurse got her ready and wheeled her out to the nurses station by the courtyard where they were going to sit.

When she first saw her great-grandaughter, Mary’s face was as stoic as it usually was. You had to wonder if she “got” what this moment was. Her grandson and his wife mouthed and yelled their words and Mary nodded and responded weakly but appropriately – so in some ways, she must’ve understood.

When her grandson brought the baby close for one of those picture moments that her family had been hoping for, out of nowhere, Mary reached up, grabbed that baby’s foot, and started kissing it like a prized jewel.

Her grandson laughed! Apparently, she did get it!

After photos, and kisses, the family sat quietly, Mary stared alertly at the baby.

After some time, the young man asked “Granny, do you want to hold her?”

Mary looked up at him, almost helplessly, “I’m afraid to” she said.

Truth be told, everybody in the courtyard that day was nervous about that idea.

But they tried it.

As they laid the great-grandbaby in her arms, after a few minutes of leaning over her and holding both her arms and the baby, Mary’s granddaughter relaxed and went to sleep.

Mary, on the other hand came to life!

The hands too sore and feeble to lift a spoon began to stroke the cheeks of the sleeping baby, grasped firmly the back of her head, and even clutched tightly when that baby would try to roll such that no superhero could’ve pried that baby from those hands.

The face that had been frozen in stoicism for months lit up and laughed everytime the baby would move, and cooed every time the baby would cry.

She lit up with pride everytime one of the nurses would walk by her in the courtyard - it was like she was a young vibrant mother all over again!

For 45 minutes everyone around Mary was silent! astounded by what they were watching.

Mary would laugh, giggle, and then look back down at the baby and stroke her face. The silence in that time was the most beautiful thing ever said.

 

The hardest thing to say that day: “Okay, granny, it’s time to go. We have to take Casey back to Vero Beach now, you know, I’m preaching on Sunday.”

You know, that may seem like a cinematically exaggerated story, but I know it all happened, for a fact. Because that was my granny, and that was my daughter she was holding.

This morning, as her great-granddaughter turns one-month old today, on her dresser sits a framed-picture of the two of them. And my greatest hope is that it reminds her on her loneliest and weakest days, that the divine spirit of motherhood capably and persistently dwells within her.

Now, I know it’s bad form to get in the habit of telling personal stories from the pulpit, but I couldn’t help it, because,

In the past month, I’ve seen the miracle of a mother’s spirit

From both sides of the curtain.

And as I think about my grandmother, and my daughter, and that woman on the other end of the curtain in triage of the labor and delivery room, I believe

The Miracle of Motherhood is all around us! And if we are willing to persist we too can become an even greater part of that miracle!

If we pray humbly and work persistently embracing the spirit of motherhood among and within us then we too can see the miracle that happens as God makes us, like the persistent woman, like the best of motherhood, as tough as we need to be.

I pray that we Christians continue to celebrate, claim, and share the love of our God because: Nothing… not age, not circumstance, not pain, loneliness, brokenness, injustice, NOTHING, can break the miracle of a mother’s spirit that dwells within us all;

May we faithfully claim a mother’s drive and ability to conquer in the name of what is right and wear down all the is pain and loneliness and hiding the very face of God!

Who could stop us?!

For the most unconquerable, capable, spirit on the planet belongs to a mother’s spirit when she’s made up her mind!

Amen.

A Few Facebook Tips for Parents

 

Growing up, I took a few Karate classes.

Literally. I took three of them.

I went for a class where they talked about how important it was to “harness my energy.” Then I went back where they showed me how to stand so that I could use my new (not-yet-learned) resources most successfully. I don’t really remember what I was taught during my third Karate class, but it must not’ve been the roundhouse kick I was hoping to learn because I quit immediately after.

Some twenty years later, in the middle of this social media revolution, I’ve begun to understand and appreciate where sensei was coming from.

For this newest generation, learning to use Facebook is as easy as learning to speak and as awkward as figuring out how to uniquely blend in to the crowd like an individual – just like the rite of passage we all went through as adolescents and teens.

However, for the newest generation of parents (and their parents), it took a while to grow comfortable with Facebook in particular. However, it seems that Facebook has proven itself as a useful (if not increasingly necessary) tool for networking, reminiscing and yes, even parenting.

While most Facebook users feel they understand what they need to understand in order to use it for their own intents and purposes, few parents seem to realize that there is a certain craft, a certain martial-arts-like restraint necessary while being a parental Facebook user.

But, first, the argument.

Making the Case

Argument #1

Make no mistake about it, parents, your student is aware of your Facebook activity. Even if you just use it for “personal connections”, your student is as embarrassed by what you do on Facebook as easily as they’re embarrassed every time they see you smiling, singing, or having fun while you’re on the parental clock.

Your teenager will always see Facebook as THEIR medium just as they see their room as THEIR room or their friends as THEIR friends. The more fun they think you’re having on THEIR medium the more agitated they’re going to get. I’m not trying to discourage your use (see below), I just want you to understand what you’re up against. See: myparentsjoinedfacebook.com. I rest my case.

Argument #2

Facebook is such a tremendous tool that we as educators, ministers, and parents have to stay engaged with our students and their environments. We can be more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and activities all while being less invasive than the generation before us had to be while getting to know us!

It’s like karate (so I’ve heard). It is a tremendously powerful resource that if used correctly can help keep our teenagers, and our relationships with them, safe and healthy.

Yes, I’m Talking to You

Probably.

Allow me to be more specific.

If you ever worry about becoming

  1. a parent who has been “un-friended”, or by your student
  2. a parent who is “friends” with your student who has not yet realized that you are being “blocked” on some (or the majority of) the pictures, comments, and statuses that your student posts, or
  3. a parent who has argued with your student about whether or not a post, comment, or picture they posted was appropriate,

I’m talking to you. I’m not judging, I’ve just spent the last two weeks talking with parents and teenagers, and feel like I might be in a position to help, ya know, as the middle man.

In those conversations, there were three clear themes that surfaced in almost every conversation. Again, these rules will be as unique to you as your relationship with your teenager. Please consider said relationship in your interpretation of the rules. Bear in mind, I don’t know you, your teen, or your relationship with your teenager.

In other words, don’t get mad, ijs (shorthand: I”m just sayin’).

A Few Ground Rules

RULE #1: DO NOT POST PICTURES, COMMENTS, OR STATUSES ABOUT YOUR TEENAGERS WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION.

I can understand where this is a toughy. The obvious response is “It’s my status, and I can post whatever I want about my day and my family!”

And you’re right. You have every right to post want you want. The same as you have every right to walk into their classroom and announce their next doctor’s appointment. Point is, to them it’s the same thing.

Facebook is an extension of school at it’s worst and an extension of their social identity at its best (in their opinion) as many students are prone to keeping their family life separate from either of those two realms, the same is true on Facebook. As irrational as that may seem to you, the gesture to acknowledge it would be much appreciated.

Remember: odds are good that their next romantic relationship will begin (and most likely end) on Facebook. Your student might not want to date in the presence of their family photo album.

RULE #2: DON’T COMMENT ON YOUR STUDENT’S WALL, POSTS, OR PICTURES.

Ya know that “eye-roll-of-death” you get from your teen when you walk up to join in on a conversation with him/her and their friends. I’m not sure there’s a way to comment or post on your student’s thread without seeming invasive.

I’m not saying it’s a rational emotion. Neither was it rationale when he chastised our parents for “trying to be cool” either.

And most importantly.

RULE #3: CHOOSE YOUR BATTLE

That is not a typo, folks, choose your battle.

With greater accessibility to your teenager’s life, you are inevitable going to see things that make you uncomfortable. You might even see stuff that you think is wrong. I can’t help you determine the difference between the two. All I can say is this: choose your battle, because you will only get one.

I believe that as soon as you directly confront a post or picture on your student’s (or student’s friends) profile they become drastically more aware that you are watching – and they become uncomfortable. That used to be the same sense of discomfort that our parents used to motivate us away from doing “wrong.” However, this generation is given a technological “out”. You will be blocked, and they will continue as usual.

To today’s teenager, their Facebook page feels like some combination of their property and their diary. Treat the information that you gleam from there accordingly.

HINT: I am not at all suggesting that you NOT use the information. Nor am I suggesting that you not hold your student to the expectations you have decided are appropriate. Just make sure you ask enough questions, gather enough sources, so that it doesn’t look like you’ve been reading their diary; especially since they would just assume find a new hiding spot for their diary.

You would be amazed how many times I’ve seen a picture or post on Facebook that has led me to ask a student how they’re doing. “How’d you know?” they often respond.

Stay calm, don’t rush to confrontation, and you may just appear to be an intuitive genius. A true magician never reveals his/her secrets/sources.

Conclusion

I would think that every generation of parents has had to dance the awkward shuffle of being an involved parent without being the helicopter-parent who hovers, worries, and suffocates.

These new guidelines are just a dance-step towards better understanding how to understand the power of technology, the power of a teenager’s trust, and the power of parental presence.

Now, if I could only master the power of a roundhouse kick!

Driving the Swaggin’ Wagon

Many people have come up to my wife and I in the last 3 1/2 months. Not surprising that they are excited to talk to us seeing as how we’re expecting our first child (See: “… and I’m Going to Be a Daddy”).

90% of those many, have made it a point to tell us reason after reason as to how our life will “never be the same.” No more late nights. No more parties. No more free time. No more naps.

We’ve decided that these folks have come to conclusions. They either think that we’ve never known anybody with kids, or they think that we’re having a blast living our party-rich, nightlife loving, nap-filled life.

If there’s no way to know the impact having child can have on a child’s life until it’s actually here, then why do people still insist on trying to tell us? Do they think it’s not too late to change our mind??

As for my wife and I, we feel fortunate to be proactively preparing for Baby Watkins (B-Dub) and are looking forward to the changes he/she will bring into our life.

Besides, of all the things we’re prepared to give up as we transition into parenthood, our swag is not one of them.

Thank you Toyota, you get me!

A Response to the Unfolding Penn State Story

I hate to do this. I really do.

It is my intention as a blogger to provide light-hearted reflections, or candid recollections, or… whatever… to generate thought and conversation around working with youth, being a parent, and/or being a human being.

The last thing that I want to write about is nasty, sensationalistic, disgusting-on-every-level-story like the story unfolding out of Penn State University regarding former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

I hate to do this. I really do.

Most of you are probably familiar with the story I’m referring to. After 20 minutes of searching this is the least graphic article that was also the most complete to this point.

I hate to do this. I really do.

I hate to do this because admittedly I don’t have all the facts, and undoubtedly the facts I have are general enough to be classified as inaccurate. I hate to do this because I’m not trying to pick a fight.I hate to do this because it’s never a good idea for a professional (or a parent) to document their thoughts when they’re as heated as I am.

Today, I was planning on writing another blog in “What Makes a Successful Teen” series. Today’s topic: Support. Topic #1: Support. The first component necessary in creating heathy environments for teens (at least according to the Search Institute): Support – family support, positive family communication, other adult relationships, and…. to be honest after reading “other adult relationships”, I couldn’t even tell you what the other three aspects were.

Other adult relationships – a crucial component in the initial stages of “building” successful teens.

I hate to do this. I really do.

But as a parent-to-be, and as a youth worker, how could this story not affect me?

As someone concerned with the development that happens to adolescents/teenagers/future grown-ups at the most influential period in their lives, We all must be concerned with “support”ing adolescents/teenagers/future grown-ups at the most influential period in their lives. It sickens me to see someone in a position as “an other adult”, use the sacred and volatile power and influence they have to do such damage.

Let us not be those church leaders, school leaders, parents, who become either disgusted to the point of remaining on the periphery, or worse, desensitized all together.

I hate to do this. I really do.

If you google this story, several of the first results are from the sports pages of different online newspapers indicating that the impact of this story first lies upon the sports world. If you go to cnn.com the feature video is of a presidential candidate denying allegations of sexual assault by four different women – it is however mentioned 7th under their “Recent News column”, right under “Rapper Heavy D Dies at 44.”

I think sexual assault is one of the most damaging catastrophes a person can be forced to overcome. Sexual Assault on a child/teenager is one of those worst things one person can do to another person at the absolute worst time.

We as adults will argue over the economy, the climate, the white house, the school district – all in the name of making the world a better place for our children. We must not take lightly the threats they face daily – from the other adult relationships that have the power to help make or break them.

I hate to do this. I really do.

But the Church (capital C ) has not yet earned a reputation as an institution quick to respond, address, and take accountability for sexual assaults within its domain. Many school districts I know of haven’t either.

This Penn State story reeks of a familiar odor. Evidence a plenty, consequences legal enough to cover the lawsuit, the story swept under the rug as quickly as possible before reputations and institutions get sullied. Our Youth deserve better. And so do our churches and schools.

We’ve got to start doing more to hold sexual predators more accountable. We must remain vigilant, and we must not accept when indicators or evidence is swept under the rug.

I hate to have had to do this. I really do.

Our youth and children depend on adults. They do. They depend on us to care for them inside and out of the nuclear and church family. I think Search Institute is right, they depend on us for support. As a part of that support, we need to be addressing their safety strongly and swiftly.

We teach our kids that sex is sacred. We teach our kids that THEY are sacred. We teach our kids that they are our number one priority. We need to hold each other (adults) to that standard in a no-compromising, no-excuses sort or way.

If you have a kid, student, youth friend, or whatever, tell them they are sacred. Let them know that it is NEVER okay for their minds and bodies to be disrespected/molested. Assure them that you are there to fight to protect their rights and safety and then hold yourself accountable to that promise.

And then maybe we won’t have to do this anymore.

May God grant comfort and peace to all the children who do not know the support that I know, or that they deserve. May we be given wisdom, courage, and persistence, to make a new day where no such children exist. Amen.

The Difference Between Adults & Kids

Sometimes people will say to me, “You’re so good with kids! That’s because you are just a big kid, yourself!”

I know what they’re trying to say and I appreciate it.

But that’s not really what I’m shooting for.

I’m not trying to be an adult who IS a kid, I’m trying to be an adult who’s FOR a kid.

I think there is beauty in the opportunity to be a kid and I think there’s beauty in the privilege of being an adult.

Kids need adults to support, challenge, embrace, and encourage them. Adults need kids to remind them of the purity, simplicity, and creativity that life has to offer.

When an adult secure in him/herself invests in the affirmation and support of a child – well that’s how the world begins to change.

May we always celebrate and embrace the differences between being an adult and a child, Amen.

(courtesy of http://www.pete.com/view/difference-between-kids-and-adults)

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For?

Check out this video that will be sure to get your teens/students/family talking:

I’m not completely convinced that there is something we are “supposed” to be searching for, but I do know this:

Focusing on what we THINK we’re supposed to be searching for often makes it near impossible to see all that is to be seen.

It pains me that for teenagers, it is all but impossible to step away from the emotions, drama, urgency, and intensity of this moment to be able to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture.

For that matter, it pains me that for humanity, it is all but impossible to … (see above)…

When people identify me by profession, they often wait for a less than opportune time to ask me, “So, where was God in THAT?”

It’s a humbling privilege to be a part of that conversation, but, first, it requires that I take a step back to look at the bigger picture – a bigger than just ME kinda picture.

May we be reminded, in whatever we’re trudging through today, that there IS indeed a better, clearer, bigger picture. Amen.