When “That” Guy Won’t Shut Up

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Everybody has a Donald Trump in their life. That is not to say that we all are personally connected to Donald John Trump, Sr of Manhattan, NY and current presidential candidate saying outlandish things. But we do all have someone – at work, at church, on our soft ball team, or in our family – that will say things that makes the whole crowd uncomfortable and might make everybody embarrassed to be associated with this irrational character. “That” guy can take a perfectly good day and make it seem like the longest day of our life just by opening their mouth and spewing their thoughts on a subject.

So what do you do when you know someone that thinks they speak for everybody, but their “spokesmanship” is unwarranted and off the mark? What do you do when “that” gal/guy just won’t shut up? What can be done to soften or silence that hot air in the room?

Don’t ignore them just because they usually say dumb things and people don’t take them seriously. By being silent and/or ignoring the controversy you send the signal that you agree with her/him. That is bad especially if they are causing more division in the crowd than clarity on the subject. If you don’t like what they say you certainly don’t want others to assume you think they are right, or smart or telling the truth.

Don’t be silent for the sake of not causing further controversy. Sometimes you might have to make a public statement that sets the record straight and separates you from them. More often your speaking will be done privately with other people effected by “the Donald.”  Make sure that you are the only one that is troubled by her/his stump speeches on behalf of everyone else. Making sure that everyone else on the team is not in agreement with the rhetoric may be the best thing you can do, but sometimes taking on your teammate in public might be the better the choice.

Don’t make excuses for them. Stupid is as stupid does. Let them hang themselves. Your interference will only delay their public shaming.

Don’t join them in their foolishness. Whatever you say or do in response, do it with class, prudence, hope, and grace. Getting the last word or the best word in a debate only has momentary satisfaction. Losing or dinging your character in frustration will prove to be very costly. One slip of the tongue can do great harm to your career and/or your reputation.

Don’t be afraid to cut ties. If at all possible we should desire to find the common ground with those who have brought discomfort to our camp. Not everyone has to agree on everything, but we all must find the space where we can agree and hang out there often. In the end though it may not be possible to keep everybody on board. That is easier said than done, but it could possibly come to that. Sometimes a government, a business, a team, or a church is better off with one less person on board. Maybe it is your call to invite them to disembark. Think that through carefully, but be ready to do it if necessary. That is what a leader does when the situation warrants it.

If you have been lucky enough to avoid having such a brash personality in your life then count yourself lucky. But get ready and be prepared. I’ll bet they are right around the corner thinking of something clever (in their humble opinion) to say. Now you are ready for them.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Parental Transitions

parental transition

Parenting is a big responsibility and comes with big requirements. From the moment that child first cries until the day you depart with your last breath, you are responsible for the child God blessed your home with. It is likely that only as a parent can your heart be blessed and broken in the same day by one person and sometimes within the same sentence. Parenting is not for the faint at heart or the easily defeated.  Parenting requires skills.

Among those skills is the ability to change with and for the child you are parenting. The status you carry today will change by tomorrow and so will her/his demands of you. The older they get, the more this should become apparent. They are transitioning from one stage of life to the next and you as parent must transition your style and schemes in the same way and timing that they do. Otherwise, you seem and sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown to a kid who is doing exactly what he was born to do – grow up.

That is where I am right now. My three little darlings have become three little daring teenagers just trying to make their way in the world. This is not a fad or a stage. It is life. Their life.

And I want to be a part of their life for the rest of my life. So, I must transition with them or I will be left behind thinking and wishing and regretting and wasted.

We must transition from sheltering them from everything to shielding them from some things. We can not protect them from all harm. We can only help them avoid the trouble that is ahead and perhaps be able to predict it. Help them avoid the biggest threats while walking with them as they face smaller threats or challenges to the worldview we have offered them. A small scrape learned at home will be a benefit when big scrapes come along later in life.

We must transition from choosing everything for them to coaching them to good choices. Everyday a child becomes more and more independent. Everyday a parent either helps them live independently or puts up a road block to their growth. Coaching is a good middle ground as they grow up and feel the need to have their own way, but still need advice and counsel. If they learn to take coaching in the small things at home, they will seek coaching in life when big things pop up.

We must transition from loving our “little person to liking the real person they are striving to become. Always love, love, love your children. Don’t forget to like them, too; whomever they are growing into. Parental acceptance is a primary need for every child. Don’t be blinded by old memories of your children. Look longingly at today’s real life photos. New memories are being made. Don’t miss them.

We must transition from teaching them about bad things/choices to talking with them about right things/choices. Sure there is plenty of things to warn our kids about. Warn them about sex, drugs and rock n roll, but also talk to them about the good, fun and beautiful things in life. Point them toward things that truly satisfy and away from things that seek to rob, kill and destroy. They will quickly recognize the difference.

We must transition from being blessed by their successes to being a blessing in their defeat/agony/failures.  Children are valuable to us. But let’s not value them for what they do for us or for how well they succeed in life, sports and other things. Be there to bless them when they don’t “hit it out of the park.” That might be your most important parental activity. God made us for them; not the other way around.

We must transition from living our dreams through them to believing in them to dream their own dream and chase it successfully. Since they weren’t made to finish the dreams we couldn’t, let them have their own life. They don’t have to be a lawyer, a teacher or a sports figure. They don’t have to be Republican or Methodist or even Texan. Open the door and show them the wide open spaces of life and then free them to roam. They are likely to go anyway, so just go ahead and make it your idea.

Transition is no time to retreat or recoil with fear or hopelessness. Every transition requires our best effort as a parent and our greatest attention to the details of relationship with our kids. Parents lead the way in helping their kids form and foster solid relationships in life. Teaching them to do so during the transitions of life at home is where they first learn.

Parenting is about feeding, clothing, helping, teaching, caring, hugging, disciplining and about 1,000 other daily needs our kids have. But helping them feel safety in the transitions of life may be the most important thing we do for and with them. For if children can’t adjust to transitions at home, they will be lost in the world that constantly is in transition.

Successful parental transitioning requires us to move from one stage of or approach to parenting to the next. Choosing to transition is likely one of the few areas of parenting that a parent has complete control over. A parent cannot make every decision or control every occurrence in their child’s life, but a parent does have complete control over her/his own attitudes, approaches and actions related to interacting with their children. In the end, our success as a parent may very well be measured by how well we transitioned along the way as our kids grew into the people they were born to become.

Get ready. A transition is just around the corner. You don’t want to be left behind. This part of parenting is a lot of fun. Get ready to move.

Parents, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. (Ephesians 6:4 – The Message)

MY NYC is better than your NYC!

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(Note: NYC stands for Nazarene Youth Conference – not New York City, No Yucky Cantaloupe or Nasty Yellow Cat)

NYC memories and experiences are a matter of competition among some Nazarenes pitting one district against another and comparing the stories of one teenager (or youth pastor) to their friends. On occasion these memories and stories fall victim to the temptation to stretch the truth a little just so my/your NYC seems cooler than your/my NYC. Ministerially speaking I guess a little NYC “tall telling” never hurt anybody too bad. It has just made the event bigger and bigger for the next generation of Nazarene youth and allowed NYC alumni to bask fondly in the memories of our days gone by.

Nothing makes you realize your age more than seeing your child standing in the spotlight you once stood. For the last 28 years I have reflected on and spoken fondly of my first youth leadership conference in Washington, DC. As a rising high school sophomore I boarded a plane with a few of my friends to hear great speakers (Tony Campolo), eat great food (Roy Rogers Burgers), hear great music (Michael W. Smith) and dirty my hands in ministry to others for the first time. Now Davis stands in my shoes in Louisville at NYC 2015 along with 7,000 of his closest Nazarene friends. Time does not stand still.

I am hopeful that the impact on him from this conference will be severe – in a good way. Ideally, he will be not only touched, but shaped by his experiences with others and most importantly his encounter with Jesus through discipleship and missional outreach. My preaching and teaching him about God as I know Him is limited by his hearing God speak in his heart and learning to know God in new and fresh ways. He must build on the teachings of his childhood and progress to a mature man of faith. That is my prayer.

NYC isn’t only for him though. It is a time to reflect on my faith and on my obedience to God. To hear God speak in a new way and with a fresh clarity on the calling in my life. If my son is the only one growing in his faith and moving on with God then there is a problem. One event in 1987 didn’t finish the work God had in mind for me. He has much, much more to do in my body, my mind, my spirit. I can’t go back to 1987 and I wasn’t invited to participate in the Louisville event, but God has great hopes for my heart this week too. God has never stopped doing the work on the inside of me so that the work He is doing through me might be blessing to others and a witness of the kingdom that has come into the world.

The truth is I have been very busy this week. Lots of meetings and phone calls to return. Lots of events with my other two kids not at NYC. Lots of good baseball on TV to watch in my spare time. Not enough time taken to pray for, fast over, and encourage Davis while he was away at what may be the most formative event of his life so far. Have I missed my moment for him?

Nope. God has had this all along. He was thinking of my son long before I paid the registration fee for him or put his bags on that bus. God placed his soul in the most capable hands of His Son and blew his blessings into his body. While I might miss moments or meaningful events, God doesn’t. He knows my son by name and he knows him in ways I don’t know or understand. He has plans and has given promises that nobody knows about yet, but we trust in Him to work all of the things (events/experiences/encounters/etc..) in Davis’ life in good and glorious ways.

My privilege is to point him towards God and let God do the shaping. That is my place and it fulfills the promise I made at his dedication and again in his baptism. That doesn’t mean that I am free from my spiritual duties as a father, but my role is changing. As he matures and moves on from my constant care over his life I must become much, much less of an influence on his spiritual life and Jesus must be the primary preacher/teacher in his heart. If Davis is my disciple, then I have failed as a father and as a pastor.

That is why I sent my son to NYC 2015. Not to gather great memories (he will) or eat great food (he stopped at Monells in Nash-Vegas) or get a picture with Colonel Sanders (“I’m back America!”). I sent Him to get away from his routine life and sit with God so that he might heart more clearly what God is saying to him right now and so that he may learn the beauty of hearing God speak throughout his life -no matter how old he gets. That is why I completely hope that his NYC is better than my NYC.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. (Ephesians 1:3-4)