How Children Raise Parents

How Children Raise ParentsRaising kids is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve had to do some difficult things so far in my life and I continue facing various challenges along the way. Raising kids tops the list of most challenging. I’ve been in the business for 15.5 years now. Enough I’d say to have gained some insight. Yet, there are still days when I feel at a loss, clueless, and frustrated with my inability to finally wrap my mind around it and figure out the perfect way to raise ‘em right! Regardless, at the end of every day I am thankful for them as they are and for the opportunity to love them and, with what I have, shape and guide them.

Today, as I was reminding them of some ground rules around iPhone use, it got me thinking about a book I read a while back. It stood out to me back then because of its title, How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family.

Dan Allender is one of my favourite authors. Every one of his books I’ve read has been a deep and refreshing dive into my heart, mind and soul. This one was no exception. I’m going to take another look at it now that my kids are in their teens. Something tells me I’ll understand it much more now.

Here are a few quotes from the book that I found jotted down in an old word document. Enjoy!

One problem is that we are too child driven.  We spend too much money and time on child-oriented things that compete with the simple and profound appreciation we should feel for our child.  In turn, the money and time we spend dragging kids to tennis tournaments, music lessons, debate clubs, and a legion of other devilish opportunities fuels a child’s sense of entitlement and a parent’s feeling that his child is an excessive drain on energy, time, and money.  This sense leads to the attitude, “my kid owes me big-time”.

There has never been an era when parents have spent more time, money, and energy on pleasing their children.  And there has never been an era when children, in return, have shown their parents less respect, intimacy, and honour.

I know I must suffer, struggle, grow, and sometimes fail to mature. But when this reality shows itself to be just as true for my children, I can barely endure it.

Growing up, as opposed to merely growing old, compels us to embrace both joy and sorrow. To mature we must learn to suffer and not yield or turn hard. To mature we must also learn to engage joy and not demand that it hang around, nor fabricate a counterfeit when it departs. There are many other ways to maturity, perhaps, but they all dance to the music of sorrow and joy.

Becoming great parents is a learning process – it does not involve our following a list or rules.

We must let go of the myth that right influence guarantees the desired results, and we must discard our unswerving faith in the power of right principles to guarantee success.

Thank God for your children because they are the ones who grow you up into spiritual maturity.  Far more than being concerned about how to correct, or convert, or counsel your children, thank God for what your children are teaching you.  To the degree that your heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for your children, they will gain the core education they most need – the knowledge that they are truly loved, treasured, and delighted in.  Only a genuinely thankful parent can invest in his or her children the conviction that they are the focus of unconditional love.

What do you think? Does anything stand out to you?

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In the beginning, God created lamb poutine

My wife and I had a getaway this past weekend and it was inspiring. We enjoyed great food and drinks prepared by artists. It’s amazing to see the imagination and creativity of the chefs. From the menu to the plating and the cocktail glass. The words chosen to describe the dishes and drinks are meant to stimulate your imagination so that you can foresee that which is yet to come. The arrangements on the plate and the glass are a beautiful canvas and a feast for the eyes. The ingredients selected to make them are fresh and delicious so as to awaken your taste buds and increase sensations throughout your entire body. An experience that comes together as you read, see, taste and savour. Each plate and each drink is a creation brought into existence by its creator and meant to capture all your senses. It is good.

None of these were put together in a rush nor were they put together at random. They began in the mind of a genius. Someone not afraid to try new things. Someone put ideas to paper and then put ingredients to the ideas. Someone created and re-created until the perfect plate and the perfect drink were formed. Words are limited in the way they can describe someone else’s art. As close as I got to those plates and those drinks, my words can’t appropriately capture the creator and his work. They are an oversimplified breakdown of what actually happened, a limited description conveying truth but not meant to be accurate. The best I can do is describe what I see and taste using words and concepts that I’m familiar with. Someone with a culinary background could use a completely different set of words to describe to you the same experience.

As I was enjoying a Lamb Poutine at the Andaz’s Feast & Revel, it got me thinking.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Maybe it began with a spark, or as some have called it, a bang! A big bang. How could it be otherwise? Life in the hands of creative genius. Free from the limits of time and not confined by due dates or someone else’s timeline, God began shaping his canvas. With no one telling him his project needed to be completed within a certain number of days, he began his endless work of art. One day as one thousand and one thousand days as one. Stroke after stroke. Breath after breath. Movement after movement. Attempt after attempt. Color after color. Each step slowly shaped into its next form like a potter shapes her clay. Declaring as good every step, every detail, every addition, every change.

As we ate, I was sharing why I think, for example, that reading Genesis 1 and concluding that God created the entire universe in a literal 6 days just a few thousand years ago lacks imagination, understanding and, I would add, robs and discredits God. If God is eternal, why is it so difficult to imagine he could have been busy shaping the universe for millions and even billions of years. He’s always been there, and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so why the rush? Our growing understanding of how the world works at the very least makes it plausible even if we don’t have all the pieces and are just scratching the surface. Why couldn’t he be slowly shaping and designing the world we know? Given the quantity of galaxies currently identified in the universe and all those our telescopes have likely not yet reached, it stands to reason that there might be much more going on out there than we can grasp. The chef is capable of much more than words can describe. Not grasping it all is not an excuse for not dreaming. Not fully comprehending is not an excuse for rejecting ideas simply because they don’t line up with what we had previously believed to be the truth. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing to grow in our understanding of the world and universe we live in as we discover new facts. Just as we are limited in our ability to describe what we now know, so were the authors who wrote texts like Genesis 1. They communicated the reality of a world desired and created by a loving God. They did not claim to know how it had come to be but simply that it had.

When my lamb poutine was brought to me I had little idea how it had come to be but there it was. If I tried to describe it, you would literally think I was describing a cake and I would not be lying. Yet, it was a poutine. Just not the traditional kind.

Epistemophobia revisited

Epistemophobia

This is something I wrote a little over two years ago with the intention of following up with a few related posts. Obviously, I didn’t. Why am I bringing it up again?  Well, I was listening to a sermon recently and it got me thinking. Below you can read or re-read what I had written but first here are a few thoughts by way of introduction.

First, I think it’s normal to fear knowledge to some degree. I’m thinking specifically of learning new things which either a) force us to abandon a previously held notion in favour of something else, or b) push us to gain a better and clearer understanding of a previously held notion. This fear intensifies as the idea/belief being examined and challenged grows closer to my core and fundamental worldview.

Second, thinking about this from the church insider point of view, it’s interesting to see the defence mechanisms the church has built around this fear and to protect what it believes to be true/right/correct. It’s more than a simple fear of being wrong. It also very quickly becomes a strong dislike, even hatred (holy hatred of course), for anyone who would propose a different take on a commonly held belief. Especially when that someone is within the community or has influence on the community in some way. This is not only true of the church.

Third, The term “heretic/false teacher” is tossed around and associated with people who hold theological ideas that don’t line up with our own. There is an invisible line that you simply cannot cross. If you do (if you dare), you are regarded as a disobedient, rebel, unloving and divisive person who should be warned and shunned (out of love of course) lest you lead others astray.

Remember when Galileo insisted the earth was not at the centre of the universe (a.k.a. Heliocentrism vs Geocentrism)? Maybe you missed it. It was a little while ago after all. What I find interesting about that little piece of history is the pushback Galileo received from the people of his time. Not only did some people within his own field react strongly but so did the Church. Of course, as we know very well today, Galileo was right. At the time people weren’t in much of a hurry to accept this ‘new’ knowledge as true.

The Church, for example, had this to say about it. They concluded that heliocentrism was:

foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture. (Source: Galileo Galilei – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Why is it difficult to accept that something we think is true may not be? Or that something we believe is true may be slightly different than we think? The Church figured that Galileo must be wrong because there are verses in the Bible that seem to suggest the earth is a the centre of the universe and doesn’t move (Psalm 93:1; Psalm 96:10; Psalm 104:5; 1 Chronicles 16:30). How can the earth revolve around the sun? After all, Ecclesiastes 1:5 clearly says that it is the sun that “rises and sets and hurries around to rise again.”

It reminds me of a saying I learned growing up:

The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.

Did the Bible get it wrong? In Galileo’s day they certainly didn’t think so and Galileo was treated harshly for it. But today, even the most serious christian has to admit that on this side of history, knowing what we know about our solar system, those verses are to be understood as expressing the human experience within the limits of the author’s knowledge of the world in his or her day. It’s writing from ones own point of view. That, by the way, is the best any one of us can ever do.

So back to the question, why is it so difficult to accept that something we thought was true might not be? It’s unsettling sometimes. Especially in regards to issues that are more fundamental to our particular worldview. If I got that wrong, what else could I be mistaken about?

I was listening to a podcast on my way home from work this week and it got me thinking about this. Trey Pearson was being interviewed and he said something about knowledge that stood out to me.

That is the interesting thing about knowledge. We are so scared of it sometimes ‘cause it might mean something is different than how we thought it was.

Are you Epistemophobic? Can you remember moments when you realized some fundamental things you had always believed were in fact incorrect? How did you feel? Was it a positive or negative experience? What is your default stance toward those who hold different, maybe even contrary, beliefs?

Prayer Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Prayer might not be what you think it is.

You may have heard stories of people who prayed for something, maybe for a loved one to be freed from cancer, and it didn’t happen. You may also have heard similar stories of people who prayed the same prayer and their loved one did heal from cancer. You may have heard stories about people praising God for sparing their home in the aftermath of a tornado while the house down the street is ripped to shreds.

Hearing these stories and considering my own often gets me thinking about prayer.

The idea of Santa Clause isn’t all that far-fetched when you think about it. Ask the guy up north and make your requests. If you’re good he’ll give you what you asked for, if you’re not, well, try again next year.

Prayer is often approached in the same way. Pray to the guy upstairs and make your requests known. If you’re good he’ll give you what you asked for. Unless of course he doesn’t. If you’re not good he won’t listen. Unless of course he does.

Prayer is quite arbitrary if it’s just about the answer because the answers to your prayers are quite random. It’s like a roll of the dice. Some heal and some don’t. Your house is left standing but not the other. There is no answer. It is what it is. Maybe it’s all part of a bigger plan, maybe it isn’t. It certainly feels nice to believe there is a God in control. I’m not suggesting there isn’t but rather proposing that our understanding of “control” may not be accurate.

Regardless, on the ground it doesn’t make much of a difference. You may or may not heal. You may or may not get the job. Things may or may not go your way. Whether or not they do is perhaps not the point.

Think about it. If prayer is about the answer, we’re constantly left scrambling, trying to understand and making up explanations to make sense of things. God answered because of this or he didn’t answer because of that. The gymnastics involved can be quite exhausting and ridiculous.

Why pray? It must be about more than just answers.

Perhaps prayer makes more sense if it’s about your disposition. Prayer, if anything, is about positioning yourself in awe and wonder or maybe in anger and confusion. It’s an acknowledgment that most things, if not all, are out of your control, arbitrary and chaotic.

Prayer, then, is preparation for what is coming. It is to say, “while I do not have control I choose to remain in the moment and roll with the punches. I will not give up and surrender. I will not lose hope. I acknowledge how easily I can become angry, jaded, self-centred and cynical. I don’t want that.”

Prayer, not unlike other approaches to meditation, is about zoning in on your heart, your soul and your attitude vis-à-vis the variety of things going on in and around you. If you believe in God, your prayer is addressed to that God whom you believe is in control and working to make all things good. Others will find their center within themselves, something or someone else. The purpose is the same. To be whole. To live well. To make sense of things. Opening yourself up to listen, observe and hear.

The thing is, prayer might not be what you think it is. What if it’s not only about what you ask for and not only about whether you get the answer you’re looking for?

Failure

 

failure post

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook brought back this picture we had posted back in the fall of 2013. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was an exciting day. We were at the restaurant drawing out plans and next steps for our new adventure called church planting.

When I saw the picture on my Facebook feed, it got me thinking about failure.

Failure. No one likes it. There are always well meaning people who will be quick to say that it’s not failure, it’s a growing opportunity.

Sure. I know. You know.

When it happens it still feels like failure and still needs to be processed for what it seems to be. Whatever it was you were trying to do did not work. You set out for something and didn’t make it. You failed. Technically. Continue reading

Every Couple’s Love/Hate Relationship With Intimacy (Part 1)

intimacy series picIf you’ve been in a relationship for any amount of time you know that intimacy doesn’t just happen. You know that simply being together does not guarantee intimacy. You probably have many stories to tell of moments when you felt distant from one another, maybe even somewhat disinterested. This distance in a relationship can happen over time but it can also happen overnight. Continue reading

The Older I Get the Better I Cook

Georges' chocolate eclairsA few days ago, I hit 40. I’m not much of a birthday person so I can’t say it’s a big deal. I think people around me enjoy it way more than I do. Is it because I’m boring, dull and lack the ability to simply have fun? Maybe. Maybe not. I can seriously overthink this.

Regardless, I might as well seize the “oh my gosh, I’m 40!” moment and reflect. Thinking. Now that is something I love to do.

So, 40. Happy belated birthday to me. I’ve never wished myself happy birthday before. 40 is the year to do it.

Is this when I can start pulling the “When I was your age” or the “if there’s anything I’ve learned in my time here on earth” statements? To be clear, I’ve been saying these to my kids for quite some time. But maybe now I can start using them more frequently, like at work or when I’m chatting with the cashier or barber. When I was just 39 I didn’t have much to say. But now! I mean, come on, I’m 40. Time to get cracking. Maybe 40 is when I finally start writing on this blog with a hint of regularity.

I may be imagining this, and my mom can correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall (back when I was young) something in our house that read “The older I get, the better I cook.” Mom, am I making this up? Is it the old age making me imagine things?

I do cook better today than I did before and those chocolate eclairs are a demonstration of my superior skills. But this little post is not about my culinary skills. It’s just about being 40. It’s about getting better at life and what we learn from it as we journey along. Not all of us get better at it I guess but I like to think that I do.

This past week I discovered the song ‘You’ by Gungor (posted below). Go ahead, listen to it and then come back. I’ll wait.

The song got me thinking about my 40-year spiritual/religious journey and where it has lead me so far. I think I’m at a place of better understanding and maturity. Some of you might disagree!

I like how the song describes a journey that is not a rigid straight line. It is rather multilayered. At times certain, at times confused. At times holding on, at times letting go. A journey filled with turning points and markers that help us identify what we’ve been through.

The older I get the more I find myself wondering if there is a God and yet the more I find myself trusting that there is and hoping that this God is as good as the Bible says (although not always very clearly). The older I get, the more I embrace uncertainty about things I thought I was certain about for most of my life. The older I get the more I think the church needs to let go of doctrinal certainty and its desire to control if it wants to follow Jesus and change the world. The older I get, the more I hold onto the hope that Jesus did come to change the world and that all things can and will be made new.

The bible begins and ends with the beauty and order we all long for. Everything in between is a series of stories showing humanity (for the most part through the lens of individuals and a one group of people) trying to figure out what the hell went wrong and wrestling with the way God works and how the story we are invited into is meant to engage our entire being. Through it all, this God steps into our mess and at every corner tries to be known (even to the point of taking the blame for some absurd and awful things – try genocide). Then, Jesus comes along and says look at me and you’ll see God.

Simple? Not always. Beautiful? Definitely.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere in particular. I was just listening to a song and it got me thinking.