Anticipation Over Production

sat-feb-18-2017-19-48-59-gmt-0500Earlier in February we took our junior high students to the CIY BELIEVE event near Cincinnati. It is an annual trip we take because the programming is excellent, our students love it and it’s a great 30 hours to spend with our junior high students.

One of the main elements at BELIEVE is the singing. There is always a top-notch worship band that does a great job engaging the students and inviting them to sing. At one point during the weekend, nearly all the people in the arena (approx. 3,500) were lifting their hands as we sang Great Are You Lord. It was a cool moment and felt very genuine.

It turned out, without really planning it, a week later we sang the same song in our church service. I referenced our experience at BELIEVE and even showed the picture at the top of this post after we sang the exact same words, Great are You Lord.

A couple of people made a similar comment that went something like this: isn’t it hard to sing here (meaning church) after you have been there (meaning BELIEVE)?

That’s a question that usually surfaces after coming back from a great event. How do you generate that same energy and engagement back at home once you’ve experienced it a camp, conference or convention?

As I mulled that thought over in mind, two words came to mind.

The first is Production. BELIEVE is a production. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. In fact, it is one reason we continue to attend and BELIEVE continues to grow. It is an excellent program.

But, it is a production. A team works for a number of months to put together a quality event that they duplicate in venues all over the country. They gather the best speakers, the best worship bands, great light rigs and sound systems, cool graphics and videos, along with quality entertainers (artists, comedians) that all work together to engage the hearts and minds of junior high students. While it is genuine and has the purpose of pointing teens to be followers of Jesus, it is a production. And it is done very well.

One reason I love taking students to BELIEVE is that they can do what I cannot do.

There is another word that came to mind as I considered the weekend. That word is Anticipation.

One reason I think students engage so strongly in BELIEVE is that they are excited to be there. For students who have attended in the past, they can’t wait to go back. 6th graders are excited to experience for the first time. When they become 8th graders, they are sad they cannot go to BELIEVE anymore.

There is a strong sense of Anticipation. Students want to be there. They pay to be there (well…their parents pay for them to be there). Youth leaders promote the weekend and there is a strong sense of anticipation.

So, imagine if we had that same anticipation when we arrived on a Sunday morning?

Take away the light show (we don’t have that). Remove the awesome worship band (honestly, we just aren’t as good as what we see on stage). Don’t count on the cool graphics and videos that serve as a backdrop to the sessions.

Do we still have the anticipation of raising our voices (or even our hands) to sing Great are You Lord?

Now, our worship teams are good. And they work hard to lead our church family in singing and worship each week. And we have some pretty talented people. But the more I think about it, Anticipation can be as powerful as Production.

As those who lead, we want to do the best we can to engage people to respond to God (Production).

For those who are coming each week, perhaps we should consider our level of excitement and engagement as we participate on a Sunday (Anticipation).

Anticipation over Production. Something to think about as we look to next Sunday.

When God Made You, Matthew Paul Turner @HeyMPT

when-god-made-youWhen my wife and I adopted over three years ago, one of the things I was looking forward to was reading books with our little guy. I always enjoyed the Dr. Seuss books and remember reading The Foot Book with my kids as they were growing. My favorite Seuss book is still The Sneetches.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to receive a copy of When God Made You, the new children’s book by Matthew Paul Turner. We are always looking for good, Bible-based books to share with our kids and When God Made You is a good addition to our collection.

The artwork is a great background to the rhyming style of the book. With bright colors and active scenes, there is almost a story with in a story happening.

The story emphasizes that each child is created by God with unique talents and abilities that God wants every boy and girl to use.

I was drawn to this particular phrase as I flipped through the book again:

‘Cause when God made you
and the world oohed and aahed,
in heaven they called you an image of God

What a beautiful truth to plant into the heart of a child:  you are created in the image of God!

Our little guy is three and the first reading was a little long for his attention span, but the message is worth reading again and again over time.  When God Made You provides a tool to impress upon the children in your life that they were created by a loving Heavenly Father who wants them to be loving, kind and who God created them to be.

Get a sneak peek of the book When God Made You  or click here to read more about it.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

@AdoptTogether Featured on CNN

AdoptTogetherAn organization we think is a great one is AdoptTogther. AdoptTogether is a non-profit funding platform helping families raise money to pay for adoption costs. We have a profile on the site and have friends who have used it as well.

The cool thing this week: AdoptTogther was featured on CNN. Hank Fortener, founder of the organization, was interviewed and was able to share about the mission of AdoptTogether. There is no PR team within the organization so they count on social media and other outlets to get the word out.

Why AdoptTogether?

The average cost of domestic adoption ranges from $15,000 to $40,000. international adoptions range from $20,000 to $50,000.

One of the biggest obstacles to adoption is financial. AdoptTogether seeks to help remove that barrier by inviting friends, family, co-workers and the community to carry the financial burden.

Take a few minutes to check out the CNN article and even share it on your social media platform.

adopttogether-on-cnn

The Jesus Gap – What Teens Believe About Jesus

jesus-gapOne of the books I wanted to read as 2017 started was The Jesus Gap. I started reading it months ago, but somewhere along the way got off track. So, I decided to get back on track and set aside some time to really dig into it.

After reading it, I went back through the things I highlighted and marked.  Once I typed it up, it filled almost four pages in a Word doc.  Needless to say, there is a lot of useful information in the book.

Bradbury shares the motivation behind writing the book.  She was taking a class on Christological foundations.  The final project was to conduct a small research study on your own ministry to determine what teens believed about Jesus.  She was surprised by the results from her group.

As she continued to study this topic, she decided to find out if what was true of the teens in her youth ministry was true of others teens.  That brought about her survey and this book, The Jesus Gap.

For those who work with students, the question that will linger in your mind as you read this book is this:  “Is this true of the teens in my church?”  I asked that question a number of times as I read the results of her research.

While there is too much information in the book to boil down to one post, a couple of things kind of rose to the top in my thinking.

One is how students look at Jesus as both God and as being sinless.

According to Bradbury’s research, when students were asked the question, “Is Jesus God?”  44 percent of students answered Yes,” 44 percent said No,” and 12 percent confessed, I don’t know.”

There are a number of conclusions a person could draw, but the numbers are a little startling.  Consider that the teens from the survey had a church background, were active in their congregations, and yet under 50% of them agreed that Jesus is God.

When asked if Jesus was perfect (or sinless), 34 percent of teens affirmed Jesus was perfect. 57 percent said Jesus was not perfect9 percent said, “I don’t know if Jesus was perfect.”

So even a smaller percentage agreed that Jesus was perfect.

Along with sharing the statistics and results of interviews, Bradbury also shared some practical steps youth workers can take to strengthen the Christology of the teens in their churches.

One area where I think The Jesus Gap is helpful is that it removes the blinders from our eyes.  We have to assume that what is true of Bradbury’s original research study in her group and then the following larger study she did, is also true on some level for the students in our sphere of influence.  One of the take-a-ways I have from this book is to find out where our students are and what particular truths about Jesus we might need to address in the future.

Another interesting thing Bradbury brought out is why students question that Jesus was perfect.  Early in the book she referenced some research done by Scott McKnight in Christianity Today where he concluded this:  “We all think Jesus is like us.  Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and extroverts think Jesus is extroverted.  To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image.”

Students seemed to carry this idea when they viewed Jesus.  Here are a couple of quotes from students in Bradbury’s book talking about why Jesus wasn’t sinless:

“Jesus was God’s Son, after all He was human.  It’s really hard to know.  You’d think he would be perfect.  But humans – it’s impossible to be perfect.”

“Jesus sinned because he was a human being like the rest of us.
Even the best people in the world sin.”

One challenge to students seeing Jesus as perfect is wrestling with His divine nature.  If He was human like us, the conclusion many of them draw is that He sinned, because all people sin.

Bradbury also revealed a distrust for Scripture.  She shared responses from students that shared the opinion that the Biblical writers left our Jesus’ sin intentionally, in an effort to make Him appear more godly.

After sharing results of her research, she offered this conclusion:  Don’t assume teenagers view Scripture the same way you do.  Perhaps we operate under the assumption that because we have talked about the Bible and have a certain set of beliefs, our students hold those as well.  The Jesus Gap reveals that for a large number of teens, it’s not true.

The challenge is to not only read the results of Bradbury’s research, but then apply it to your particular context.  This is a good read for those who work with students and could create some good discussion.

Cheryl’s Blog Post About Valentines Day @DaytonMomsBlog

8-waysCheryl’s second post went live a couple of days ago on the Dayton Moms Blog just in time for Valentine’s Day.  She writes about 8 ideas for your kids on Valentine’s Day.

And it’s true!  Each year she does something for the kids on Valentine’s Day.  It’s a simple way to show love to your kids on a day when everyone is thinking about love.

Read the post or check out the ideas below.

For almost 10 years I was a single mom of two little boys. Instead of feeling sad or lonely on Valentine’s Day, I decided it was a great opportunity to show my boys how much I loved them and teach them how to show love to others. t became a tradition that I looked forward to. I thought that someday (many years away) when they had a special someone, they would benefit from this “training”. We started each Valentine’s Day off with a box of chocolates, and a card and then after school or our events for the day, ended our evening off with a delicious Italian dinner, equal to that of scene from Lady and the Tramp. Each year the boys looked forward to this and I was always on the lookout for another way to show them how much I love THEM. Here are a few ideas to add to your own list. Valentine’s Day may be silly to some, a greeting card holiday to others, however I always love the opportunity to tell my kids how much I love them.

  1. Prepare a candle lit dinner for your kids.
  2. Write your child a letter or a poem and tell them why you love them.
  3. Plan a scavenger hunt for your kids, ending with a box of chocolates.
  4. Make individual books on Shutterfly or another picture loving site for each child, listing what you love about them.
  5. Have a home-made card for your child to open up everyday leading up to Valentine’s Day- with a quality you love about them in each note.
  6. Buy a Valentine puzzle, put it together and write why you love your child on the back, take puzzle a part and give them a piece each day until complete.
  7. Spend some time at the dinner table or in the family room, pass out conversation heart candies and talk about what you love about each member of your family, you get a heart to munch on after each time you share.
  8. Have a Valentine picnic (in Ohio this is indoors), enjoy heart-shaped food and end the evening with a box of sweets.

What do you do to make Valentine’s Day fun for your kiddos?

Those Who Refresh Others Will Be Refreshed

I had the opportunity and privilege to participate in a memorial service for a dear lady from our church family a couple of weeks. She and her husband were active members for over 20 years and are well-liked and respected by people in our church and community.

During the service I simply shared some memories I had of this woman, how she influenced her family, impacted people around her and was involved in the life of our church. Mine was only one perspective on a life well lived and it was good to hear from others as they shared their memories.

As I was putting together my thoughts, a verse from Proverbs came to mind.  It is not a passage I’ve used at a funeral before nor have I heard it used by others.   As I looked up the verse and read the preceding verses, it fit very well.

The godly can look forward to a reward, while the wicked can expect only judgment. Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:23-25)

The woman we were remembering was one of refreshed others.  She served at our church.  She gave freely to her family and to those outside her family. She was known as a woman who loved and accepted kids.

…those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed

The wisdom of Proverbs really came to light before and during the service.  As we give freely, we do refresh others and God, whether now or in the future, will refresh us.

…those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed

Good challenge for the day.

Her First Post – The Blend @DaytonMomsBlog

Yesterday I shared that my wife is a contributing writer for Dayton Moms Blog. This morning her first post went live. It’s called The Blend. 

Enjoy!

The grocery store had kale on sale. 2 bunches for $1.00. I had to get some, there was a soup recipe that I wanted to try that needed kale. The soup was delicious. I still had one heaping bunch of kale in my fridge. Having heard of kale smoothies, and their amazing health benefits, I googled some recipes. I couldn’t imagine how this bitter and pepper vegetable would taste in a smoothie with coconut milk and blueberries, so the search continued for the perfect blend in a smoothie recipe.

About a decade ago, I found myself in a different blending dilemma. I needed to figure out how to blend some sweet, salty, bitter, peppery and even some bruised all into something delightful or at the very least palatable. 

I was divorced, with two little boys when I got out my blender. I needed to blend a broken man, two shattered teens and a bitter ex with my two wounded boys, a damaged heart(mine) and an absent ex. I began reading anything I could get my hands on about blending families, I was sure that I could read up on the topic and “fix” things in record time. The first book I read caused me to put the blender away. The Smart Step-Family by Ron L. Deal was a great book in my blending venture. Deal writes “The average stepfamily takes 5-7 years to form a family identity”. I read and reread that over and over again, 5-7 years to blend? I wanted to be blended NOW! The book provided me with great tools and practical guidelines to help in the blending of our families. So I took out my blender again and decided it was worth the effort and time.

The blending didn’t happen overnight. It was not as easy as throwing in some kale and blueberries and coconut milk and pressing puree. It took time, and I have learned that blending a family is sometimes like a pressure cooker, and not as easy as an Insta-pot. Ron Deal makes the analogy that blending families is more like using a crock pot, it is slow and takes time. I personally liked the idea of a blender, throw everything in and press a button and there you have it, easy clean up, easy to put away and manage.

I’ve just hit the 6 1/2 mark of The Blend. It has indeed become more of a crock pot experiment over the years. Our once salty teen has become a loving, giving affectionate person. Our peppery teen is now a warm and sweet adult. The most surprising is that bitter ex, is now a friend. The bruised have healed and are healthy and the absent is present. It has taken time, you can’t rush these things, even if you want to. 

The Blend has changed me. I learned to focus more on what was best for my kids and less about me and how I felt. I put myself and my needs aside to understand how the salty and the sweet and the bitter felt. I changed. I changed to help the blending. I looked for ways to compliment the salty and bitter and add to make things better than hide or mask the taste. I am far from putting the blender away. I have to continue to change the recipe to make our family identity taste the best it can. The recipe changes with weddings, adding children, college, jobs, children moving away and any other life changing events. So I keep the blender handy, I know that it really is more of a crock pot deal…….and given time, it smells and tasted delicious…..it’s just not catchy to say you are “crock-potting” a family.
Now where is that kale………