Monday, September 30, 2013

The Most Common Command

N. T. Wright, in Following Jesus, says this:

"As the college barman in my undergraduate days once said to me, 'The trouble is, everything Jesus is against-I like.' But this conception of God is in fact a lie. The resurrection of Jesus proves that it's a lie. Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible turns out to be? What instruction, what order, is given, again and again, by God, by angels, by Jesus, by prophets and apostles? What do you think-'Be good'? 'Be holy, for I am holy'? Or, negatively, 'Don't sin'? 'Don't be immoral'? No. The most frequent command in the Bible is: 'Don't be afraid.' Don't be afraid. Fear not. Don't be afraid."

"Every one of us has something on her or his mind about which we badly need a voice to say: 'Don't be afraid. It's going to be all right.' As the Lord said to Lady Julian: 'All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.' Let's make no mistake about it: until you learn to live without fear you won't find it easy to follow Jesus."

We, and our children, won't find it easy to be and do what God has planned for us until we replace fear with heart. May we learn to trust. And, "All shall be well."

P.S. Thanks to Jim Wilhoit for leading me to this.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Afraid to Lose

We were closing on an undefeated volleyball season. Each match got harder. The opponents weren't getting better, but it was increasingly hard to play the way that got us where we were: smart, aggressive, loose. I remember a reporter talking with me about the team, asking what would keep us from going all the way, why we seemed to be struggling in the last couple of matches.

I didn't hesitate. "We are becoming afraid to lose."

The more we won, the more we became afraid to lose.
And, when you are afraid to lose, you play a different game. 
You hold up on hits, don't take chances, you just keep the ball in play instead of going for the kill.
Which gives the other team a chance, they become the strong ones, and you find yourself always in a defensive posture, digging and diving their hard hit balls instead of making the other team do that.

I watched a classic high school volleyball match recently. Two great teams with a long rivalry.
The match went to five games and it was close to the end.
But, you could see it, you could see it in their eyes.
You could see the favorite team, the one who usually won, become afraid to lose.
They weren't used to losing, but the other team had some good plays and had them down.
The favorites starting playing it safe. They kept the ball in play, but in a way that let the other team set well and hit hard. The favorites played defense instead of hard ball. They were afraid to lose.
They lost.

Fear freezes.
And, creates losers.
It is true in sports, relationships, work, growing. Pretty much everywhere.

We can help our children by teaching them to notice when they are taking a defensive posture. We can help them notice when fear instead of faith is driving their choices.

Noticing the slip into a defensive mindset lets a coach call a time out and tell the team what they are doing, to readjust their mindset and get back to what wins games.

Sometimes we need to help our children by calling a time out. Pulling them back from the busyness of life and pressures of the day and adjust their approach. And, maybe check our's to make sure we aren't the reason they are afraid to take risks and play to win, whatever the situation.

They need our help, our love that is deep enough to do what is best for them and helps them address fears.
"Perfect love casts out fear."

Timeout. Call a timeout. When things aren't moving forward and they are back on their heels. Timeout.

Pray and encourage and understand, so they can move from defense to joy and life, lived with passion and pursuing the win, not afraid of losing.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Second Essential Question Needed for Courage: Is It Wise?

The Fuzzy

"Is it right?" was the first essential question needed for courage (See "Is It Right?").

But what happens when right is not clear?
Wisdom is needed.

Wisdom helps sort out the fuzzy. It gives confidence when knowing what to do isn't real clear. It can be figuring out if the idea is right. Or, deciding how an idea is applied to a life, how it is used. Wisdom is where truth bumps life.

Knowing that something is right gives confidence for courage. But, how can our children know if something is right and worth the risk, if it is not spelled out?

I had the audacity years ago to teach a class called "Knowing God's Will" in the Lay Institute of Dallas Seminary. I am still not sure why they let me do it, but I hope today that I at least caused no harm. I pointed the class to some ideas that I think are right. I have learned some things since then, too.

"Knowing Gods' Will"  gets down to using wisdom to decide if something is right or wrong to do. Lots of books have been written, you might go to some. But, below is a starter. These are things that a child should learn, to sort out life in the fuzzy times, to know when to step out in faith and with courage.

1. Pray. Maybe I should just stop there. James chapter one says that God gives wisdom to those who ask. The beginning point of wisdom is to put God in His place and understand life through His eyes.
2. Ask the Bible. Wisdom relies on truth, and particularly truth from the Creator. The Bible provides poignant truth for all people, about how life really works. Second step for wisdom is to see if the Bible speaks into the situation, either directly or indirectly.
3. Ask others. I am pretty confident that people have figured out whatever I am stuck on before. Ask a variety of people. Ask friends and family who love you and want your best. We can easily deceive ourselves; others help us see situations from different views and bring new and tested ideas.
4. Listen. Sometimes we don't understand and don't hear because we don't listen. Or, we are trying to listen where it is too noisy. Help your child find quiet and peaceful pockets in life so words can be heard and thoughts had. Scheduling every minute and filling the rest with screens and audio blocks truth and confuses thoughts. Outdoors seems to help, just playing or walking.
5. Know self. Help your child know his or her gifts and interests. Help your child try different parts of life to see how God made him or her. Discovering self happens best when fed with ideas and opportunities, used. Wisdom often results from following one's gifts and passions.
6. Pros and Cons. Sometimes just writing down the good and bad helps. Writing often brings clarity to thinking.
7. Feel freedom. If God is speaking and counsel is directing, feel confident to move that direction, with heart. But, a lack of being clearly told is not a reason to stand still; often the choice to move in faith is followed by understanding and affirmation. If there is nothing saying "don't," we should feel the freedom to do it. At least try.

The goal is to sort out fuzzy choices so your child can act with courage, not be afraid to try and move forward. The actions above may help. Practice helps. Wisdom is often an art more than a science, led by the Holy Spirit. Help your child to progressively practice using these tools, kind of like giving them paper and crayons. Then sharp scissors when they are ready!

Lord willing, it will be clear that the choice is the right one.

Then, the next question is: "Who should do it?"
Your child. Or someone else?

Helping a new person in school.
Giving money to missions.
Hugging a hurting friend.
Rescuing a dog from a fire.

All good. And right.
But, who should do it?

Courage not only comes from knowing it is right to do, but knowing you are the right person at that time.
How do you know? How does your child know he or she is the one, for that time and place?

Coming up: "Am I the one?"

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The First Essential Question Needed for Courage: Is It Right?

Let me invite you to explore four essential questions that our children, and we, must answer to be a braveheart. Today, I will explore "Is it right?" and then catch the others in later posts. Here are the questions:
1. Is it right?
2. Is it wise?
3. Am I the one?
4. Do I trust?

With the right answer to these questions, courage happens, courage that makes a difference.

Question one: Is it right?

Are the words or the actions that are wanting courage "right" to do? And, let me add two other questions we could ask that might help in some situations: "Is it good?" or "Is it excellent?" Or, maybe you can think of other questions that would help decide if words or actions are important and hard enough to need courage. But, lets start with "Is it right?"

Knowing that something good and right needs done or said is the power behind courage, and prevents courage from slipping to foolishness. To have courage, a person must know a right or a good. A person without an understanding of right and good has no reason to be brave.

Trying to decide between right and wrong, or good and bad, can sound simplistic. Sometimes the distinction is simple and works well, but sometimes it doesn't.

For example, you can be sure that telling the truth and being kind are right. Rooted in the Bible and in most cultures, these are standards of right and wrong. If a person is being picked on, it is right to be kind to him. If the building inspector asks you if you are following code, the truthful answer is right.

Doing or saying the right thing can cost. Being kind to someone who is ostracized by the group can result in the group ostracizing the kind person. Telling the truth to a building inspector can result in more expensive work. But, they are right.

Not to become legalistic, but are we teaching children things that are cleanly right and good? Things that they will not doubt because they are taught in God's word and are common sense. And, how do we teach? It is best done by word and example. What do they know from you and me by what we teach and model, not "Do as I say and not as I do" but "Do as I say and do!" What is our source of rights and wrongs in life? What is our authority? And, what do we teach or model unintentionally?

Dana and I were just talking about some things we think our children learned from us, and some were not intentional. Between annual vacations and moving, they learned to have adventure and that moving is okay. They learned that they can live away from their parents, because we did. They learned to value books and reading: that one was intentional! What are your children learning is right and good from you?

Picking a right can get complicated. It is right to tell the truth, always. But, Paul says in Ephesians to "speak the truth in love." As in most decisions to act or speak, there is right. But, the right needs to be done in
love, for the best of the other person. The controller is love. That is clear. But, knowing what that means in any specific situation can be fuzzy. How much of the truth? Do you write a note, give a hug, or shake your finger?

Let's not get lost in the fuzzy. Fuzzy can often become an excuse to not do or say the right thing: "I don't know if this is right to say because I might hurt her, so I won't say anything." Fuzzy means be careful, not give up on doing right.

That is why we need wisdom. Wisdom sorts out the fuzzy. And, often points to the best way to act or speak.

A discussion on wisdom is coming. But, don't wait! Start now. Ask God. James 1:5 says: "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." That will hold you over!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

All In for the Big Jump

A couple of years ago, Dana and I spent the weekend at a beautiful lodge in Mt. Magazine State Park.  Mt. Magazine is known for being the highest point in Arkansas, bears, butterflies, and hang gliding.  While we were there, I watched two hang gliders launch into a two-thousand feet drop and fly until they looked like small birds.

"Clark Kent"
The two men hang gliding were friendly, so I learned some things. I learned that people who hang glide are different. One was a mild-mannered Clark Kent type and the other a Mountain Man. Mountain Man came to the edge, went through his checklist quickly, ran a few steps, and jumped.  Clark Kent was methodical, carefully examining each strap and bar, and waiting for seven or eight minutes for the wind to blow straight into his launch.  He rode the updrafts a lot longer than Mountain Man.

I also learned how much they had prepared.  To do this somewhat difficult jump, you had to already have ten hours of flight time, which takes a lot of five and ten minute jumps. They learned to hang glide by running on flat land with no equipment.  Then running on flat land holding the metal brackets.  Then, with wings.  Then, they got a small rise to jump from.  Bigger and longer each time. They worked hard to prepare, to become strong.  One of the gliders said, "We really aren't afraid because of all of the preparation that got us ready."

When Joshua led Israel to claim the Promised Land, God told him three times to be "strong and courageous."  The generation before had not claimed the special place God had for them because of fear.  The spies of that generation had reported that the Land was special just as God had said.  But,there were big people there.  Their fear kept them from having the best God offered and this special place was given to someone else.  Joshua's conquest needed what the first generation lacked: strength and courage.

The hang gliders were strong, they had prepared well enough that they had confidence in their jump. It would still be dangerous, but they had the courage to come up to the edge and be all in because of their mental and physical strength developed through hours of practice and training.  The hard work of preparation, becoming strong, is a key to giving children courage.  Courage comes from knowing you are ready for the challenge.  Strength gives courage for the challenge.

How do we prepare our children?  Help them to increasingly understand that strength is up to them, not something you can do for them.  While a coach can set up a training plan for a player to lift weights, it is up to the player to lift and work.  Show children that the hard work of preparation pays off, whether in preparing for a test, an athletic contest, or a concert.  Give them small experiences as they are young and larger jumps as they get older, just like the preparation for the hand gliders.  Show them hard work in your life.  Don't help them look for shortcuts or complain that teachers are too hard on them. Support them, but let them see what preparation feels like and how it pays off.

Help them think about the importance of becoming strong in a variety of areas.  The things that schools traditionally do--like reading, writing, speaking, and reasoning--prepare children for many of the challenges they face in our culture; if they feel strong in these, they will have courage to enter the work force, pursue other training, and engage with people.

But, don't stop there.  Try these.
* Social skills and strength in getting along with people. How can they prepare for working with others?
* Emotional strength: are they comfortable with themselves. How can you help them see themselves rightly?
* Physical health keeps a child and adult able to face challenges of all sorts.
* Spiritual strength:  A right relationship with God helps children know why they are here and gives purpose and courage.

As you pray and look at your child, periodically evaluate strengths and areas that could use attention.  Encourage them with comments about their strengths.  And, normally for areas that need growth, it is better to not tell them (that is discouraging) but sneakily plan and help growth. (For example, if a child is not physically strong, maybe Dad starts biking with her, making it a fun time with Dad instead of a remedial training experience--look for positive, relational ways to strengthen weak areas.)

And, one more area of strength that is of particular importance to courage:  strength of character. Todd Beamer, the 9/11 hero who helped overcome the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 before it could reach its target, was "known for his strength of character and leadership in everything he did" (excerpted from the Wheaton Academy Connection).  Todd was the one who said, "Are you guys ready?  Let's roll."  Todd's strength of character, his hard work, and his "rare ability to subjugate his own benefit for that of the team" prepared Todd for his unexpected need for courage.  (For an example of strength and courage, you can read Todd's story to your older children in Let's Roll by his wife, Lisa.)

As we help our children gain strength so they are ready for their call, let's praise them for hard work and character, things that won't fade.  Let's help them see the benefits of preparation by connecting their work with success.  Let's think about their areas of strength and weakness and find subversive and pleasant ways to build their weaknesses in their spiritual, social, physical, and emotional growth. 

Let's help them build strength of character that is ready for the unexpected, so they can answer God's call to what He has planned for them, ready to be all in like the hang gliders.  There is nothing more beautiful than a life lived faith to faith, rich and abundant, with strength and courage to jump and enjoy the flight.

(If you would like to see the beauty of what happens after the jump, click here:Airtime at Mt. Magazine. While you are watching, maybe you can ask yourself if God is trying to get you to "be all in" and jump toward something important and beautiful, has He prepared you and now you are at the edge while He is talking to you or giving you a push?)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Life Well Lived

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, the evening after our high school baseball team lost in the state finals.

Tomorrow there will be an article in the newspaper about our boy's baseball team losing the state championship. Actually, it will be about the other team winning. But, our team's name will be prominent and the fact that we came in second.

This won't feel good. While a great season, best ever, having the community know you didn't win makes losing feel worse.  We will say great things about our guys, they deserve to hear those things, especially since they had won the first two outings with the championship team.  But, anyone who reads the sports will know who won the big game.

Garrett pitching
This is what happens when you are a braveheart, when you have courage and strength to make a run for something great and special. You may win. But, you may also lose. And, people will know.

Very few notice the last loss of the season for the teams who don't make the playoffs. Their losses won't be well known. It is only when you really go for something big that you run the risk of not only failing, but a lot of people knowing.

But, the alternative is to not even get there, whatever the dream or goal might be.

There is risk when you have courage. Otherwise, it isn't courage. Risk means you can lose, you can fail, you can get hurt. The bigger the goal, the more likely a lot of people know. The bigger the goal, the more likely you fail.

But, sometimes you make it. And, certainly, if you don't try and don't aim big, nothing happens. You are simply a fan of someone else trying.

I was challenged by a friend recently who had worked really hard to accomplish a big goal, with strength and courage. A goal he did not achieve.  He said, "But you talk about having courage." He thought that having courage and working hard would result in a big success.

I do believe in courage. I believe that being a braveheart is the way to become the person God intended, to use the gifts we have, to make a difference. It takes courage.

But, you can fail. There is risk.

"The knew they were alive."
Make sure the goal is worth the risk. Then go for it, with God's help. You might win. You might not. But, you will know you have lived. You have entered into something that many people don't, a life well lived. If the dream is big enough and important enough, whatever you give is worth it. Our children need to know that failing is part of a life well lived, a life intent on something bigger than ourselves.

After watching a hurtful loss by his daughter's basketball team in the Illinois high school state tournament,Wheaton College Men's Basketball Coach, Bill Harris, simply said to the other parents,"They knew they were alive."

When you have courage to play for the top, with courage and strength, win or lose, you know you are alive.

It is worth it. For us. For our children. To know they have lived, and lived well.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fifth Grade Fears

Bigger fears for children or parents?
It was around fifth grade that Donald Crank and I began making Creepy Crawlers. We took advantage of the creeping fears that are pretty common around fifth grade, especially with girls who didn't like finding plastic snakes in their seats!

What we didn't know was that fears were often greater for our parents than the ones we had.

Beginning somewhere near fifth grade, adolescence starts interfering with the good thing parents have going. Children start changing, getting ready to move into adulthood. They want new situations and new people. We don't have the control we had and simplicity of life is swallowed up with increasing change. Sometimes we just want to stop it, to keep our children the way they are.

Can you relate to Mary's comments when Jesus was twelve? "Son, why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you." If Mary was anxious about Jesus, maybe there is something to our concerns.

The problem is that our fears untamed hurt our children.

Two things can happen if our fears drive us to keep our children close and protected when they are ready to move out of our eyesight and beyond our reach.

Somehow we made it!
First, our fears can teach our children to be afraid."If mom is so afraid to let me walk through Target alone or spend the night at a friends, maybe I should be afraid, too." A child who learns to be afraid of normal life in early adolescence will have a hard time facing more life when it comes. And, it will come.

Second, children held too tightly can rebel. We might hold them tight for a while, but some will have a hard time containing their growth if we don't give them room. Our fears can drive our children away, physically or emotionally. If we hold them too tight for too long, they will lose respect and look for wisdom about life from someone else.

Now you might be really scared! But, relax. Millions and millions of parents have helped their adolescents make it and have turned their own fears into convictions to help their children enter adolescence in healthier ways.

If you are afraid, I hope you can settle your fears with faith, knowledge, and a plan. But, while ending fear, you still should not let go of the need to wisely navigate your child through adolescence. As you probably already feel, it is the wrong time to just give children total freedom, especially in a culture that creeps into places that used to be safe and invades the sanctuary of home.There is no magic switch when a child is ready to be on their own, not in fifth grade, not starting high school, and not at sixteen. They need you, not to be afraid, but to wisely guide and and prepare them for bigger slices of life on their own, until they are ready to go.

After Mary told twelve-year-old Jesus her anxiety, Jesus came with Joseph and Mary and "continued in subjection to them." And, "Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."

Notice that Jesus did it, not Mary. She couldn't. And shouldn't. Jesus kept increasing in responsibility after twelve years old. The same should happen today. Children should increase in their responsibility for their minds, their bodies, their relationship with God, and their relationships with others. Parents should decrease, still with a watchful and wise eye to guide and teach, but not control and do.

How do we do that? How do you help children increase in their responsibility, without fears stopping you?

Let me suggest these, as a beginning:

1. Know you are in the business of risk management, not reaction to emotions. Check out "Managing Risk for Life's Adventures," a post from March 28, 2011. Wisely assessing and planning for risk will help you turn fears into positive actions.

Bigger boxes of life.
2. Know your goal and build toward it. I am sure your goal is to help your children become men and women, not stay children. What sort of men and women? I hope pleasing to God and using the gifts God has given them. With courage. Keep working on how to give your children "bigger boxes" of life. Teach them, then let them try. Review what happened, and do it again with a bigger box, with more freedom and responsibility.

3. Learn about adolescence. For example, I stumbled on this quote from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Adolescents take risks to test and define themselves. Risk-taking is both beneficial and harmful. It can lead to situations where new skills are learned and new experiences can prepare them for future challenges. Risk-taking serves as a means for discovery about oneself, others and the larger world. The natural and normative proclivity for risk-taking plays a central role in adolescent development, making it a time of both great potential and great vulnerability." This is a good article using brain research.

4. Give them a safety net. Let your children do normal things, but prepare them for problems. Talk about what happens if they are at some one's house and things go bad; give them a code word so they can secretly call for rescue.  And, let them use you as the bad guy, "My dad said I need to come home." Talk through the situation they are getting ready to do, practice the words they may need to say, and review the options for help. Then let go.

5. Work on your faith. Risk is real in growing. There is danger. But, we have a great God who is sovereign and loves your child more than you do. Hard things are how we grow. Help your child have slices of life that are increasingly large and hard, as your care shifts from protection to prayer.

Between Mary's anxious moment and Jesus becoming a man, she "treasured all these things in her heart." May you learn to treasure the moments between twelve and launching instead of being blinded by fears. You will have a treasure chest full of memories to enjoy for years,when the time comes for your child to leave.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Getting Back On

If you fall off a horse, you are supposed to get right back on.

I didn't fall off. But, I dismounted from writing Bravehearts and haven't been back on for almost three months. My main ministry work has been deep and wide, so I have been riding that horse more than normal.

I tried to get back on this one after three or four weeks and failed. I had ideas. But, I didn't think they were good enough. And, the longer I was off, the better I thought I had to be. The harder it got to get back on.

I finally mustered up the courage to tell you that. And, to get back on this horse. Braveheart, the courage to try, is too important to not get back. Parents are told to not let their children lose heart in Colossians 3:21. A child who has lost heart gives up and doesn't try. That child never develops the gifts God has given him or her. Every child should have the opportunity to become and do what God offers. A brave heart to try makes the difference.

I learned some braveheart lessons about getting back on the horse. Maybe they will help:

First, it is true. If you fall off, get back on as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it gets and the more courage it takes. Doing good things, like kindness to a lonely person, hard school work, and training for athletics all become harder the longer you are away. If something interrupts doing good and right things, help your child get back to it as quickly as possible.

Second, the longer it takes, the more doubts you have. You begin to wonder if it was worth it. You begin to wonder if the hole got too big to fill. You begin to wonder what people will think. The longer you wait, the more courage it takes to come back, to overcome doubts and weaknesses that have crept in. Help your child talk about the doubts and don't let doubts determine the future. Help him or her know that coming back is a big part of a successful life. Help your child make a plan with manageable steps. Give hope.

Third, pick the right horse. Some horses might not be worth getting back on. Or, not a good fit. But, if it is the right horse or activity or relationship, it is worth whatever it takes to get back. Help your child know what is important and good, and ride those horses, even if he or she falls off sometimes. A conversation yesterday with a reader of Building Bravehearts helped me remember the value. Passion for the right things gives courage to try. It helped me.

May God help you raise a child who has the courage to try, to use and become what God has offered.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Les Miserables

I was transfixed by Les Miserables. I couldn't even eat my snacks, I almost felt like munching would have been disrespectful. I still haven't figured out why. I know some who hated the film. I guess I didn't hate it because it was more than a film to me,

It did something to me.

I am not a huge fan of musicals.To be honest, I didn't even know Les Miserables was a musical until ten minutes before the show and Kristie's friend told me.

Something happened. I still haven't sorted it out. Grace? Redemption? The hurt of thinking you are following God's will by demanding the rules and then grace forcing the issue to a breaking point? The people in the movie I seem to know and am so close to being the same?

All I can lift out of the pile of gold right now is Jean Valjean's repeated question, "Who am I?"

Who am I?

How did Jean Valjean have the courage to go places others didn't go, to give time and even his life? What made him brave to rescue Marius, without Cosette knowing? How did he have the strength to free Javert, the one person who could ruin him?

Who am I?

The answer lies somewhere in answering this. It is the same place for you and me. For our children. How does anyone have the courage to do ridiculous things like adopt a prostitute's child? Like disregarding personal danger to rescue another? Like loving the unlovely?

"Who am I?" is the major question adolescents must answer, according to Erik Erikson. Identity development being one of his stages of growth and development, an answer that lets you move on in life. "Who am I?" is as relevant in real life as in Les Miserables.
"He gave me hope when hope was gone,
He gave me strength to  journey on."

Who was Jean Valjean? A sinner, even though the sin that got him in trouble was stealing bread to feed poor relatives. But, he knew when he took the candlesticks of a gracious priest, he knew then that his heart was dark.

But, Jean Valjean was rescued by grace. That grace changed him. He began to pour grace on others, to love. While remaining a sinner, he was changed, changed by grace and giving grace. There is confusion even today for the sinner who is saved by grace, because the struggle of who I really am continues.

Who was Jean Valjean? What did he know about himself, in spite of his constant confusion, that gave him the courage to do great things in lives?

He knew he was a sinner. But, he knew he was rescued and given a new life by grace.
He simply wanted to give that grace to someone else because of what was given him.
He risked the good life, and life itself, to love others in need.
He had courage to do right when others didn't because he knew what had been done for him.

May our children know their darkness. And, that God gives grace putting sin far away through Jesus. That God will rescue them and change them. The greatness of that grace.
May that reality be theirs and give them the courage to love because of what is done for them, as Jean Valjean did.

Who am I? A sinner, saved by grace, like Jean Valjean.
Now what?

"We love, because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Leaping Faith

Courage and faith are inextricably linked. They are tangled together.

What are we trusting for our courage?
Courage is faith in action. 
Faith fuels courage.

Courage needs a leap of faith.
Leaping faith becomes courage.

When was the last time you needed courage? I bet it was a time when you didn't know how things would turn out. Or, you knew your next step could hurt you or make life harder in some way.

There was risk. There always is, or there would be no need for courage. If all of the details are planned so that the results turn out just the way you want, there is no reason for courage. No reason for faith.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we have control of our lives and our children's lives, that we can put all of the details together like an algebraic equation and get the right answer every time. We might pull this off occasionally, or think we did. But, in a messy world with people the way they are (including us!) and powers we cannot see, a contained system that works the way we plan isn't real. We need courage. We need faith.

To help our children face the world, to enter into relationships and experiences that are rich and real and growing, they will need faith. They will need to trust. Trying out for a team, starting a new school year, asking a friend over, standing against evil...the list goes on and on. Each of these can be frightening and each is risky. Each requires faith to step or leap to the next spot.

Faith, belief, trust...they need an object, something in which they believe. A key role in parenting is to show and teach children how to trust and in what to trust. Courage to try, courage to risk, flow from a strong faith.

We can teach our children to have faith in a lot of things:

We could teach our children to put their faith in money or plans or bad advice, intentionally or without thinking. Fleeting objects of faith at best.

They can learn to trust us--catch them when they jump in your arms! Then when we tell them what they should do that is hard, they know they can count on us, at least as far as humanly possible.

The can have faith in an idea that touches lives, like democracy, and sacrifice time and life with courage.

They can believe that a risky action is worth the consequences for something they value, like an adventure trip or protecting their family.

They can have faith in the living God, who loves them, is powerful, and who rescues them and fits all things together for good for those who love Him. The ultimate object of faith.

What little steps of faith are you teaching them, so they can have bigger ones? Which objects of faith are they learning from us so they can have the faith to be courageous for important things?