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?"