Lawnmower Parents and Snowflake Spirituality

I wish I had written this…but it is from James Emery White. It would probably do you better to read this today than to watch the Kavanuagh hearings…

There’s a new parenting category. You’ve heard of helicopter parents, free-range parents, tiger parents… now there’s “lawnmower parents.” What does a lawnmower parent do? They “mow down all of a child’s challenges, discomforts and struggles.”

The idea has taken hold due to a viral post from an online community for teachers that said, among other things: “In raising children who have experienced minimal struggle, we are not creating a happier generation of kids. We are creating a generation that has no idea what to do when they actually encounter struggle.”

The teacher author shared a story of “being called to the office, expecting to retrieve a student’s forgotten meal money or inhaler. Instead, a sheepish parent in a suit was dropping off an expensive water bottle after repeated texts from a child. Water fountains exist all over the school.”

This was actually tame.

Here are some of the “lawnmower” stories that came in as a result of the post:

  • The parent of a high school student who asked a teacher to walk their student to class to assure that the student would not be late.
  • A parent who requested someone from the cafeteria blow on their child’s too-hot lunch to cool it down.
  • A parent who called to schedule a make-up test when the student was clearly old enough to request a time.

To be clear, this is not about a parent’s willingness to help a child succeed. “The problem,” notes Hannah Hudson, Editorial Director for WeAreTeachers.com, “comes from a parent’s repeated efforts to eliminate any and all struggle so that children are ill-equipped when they grow up and life inevitably goes sideways.”

I’ve noticed that, whether as a result of lawnmower parenting or not, there’s also a growing trend among younger Christ followers in regard to handling adversity. In short, many are spiritual snowflakes.

For example, I recently read of a Christian couple who actually considered becoming atheists because they had difficulty conceiving a child. They did conceive, mind you, but because they had difficulty, they began to doubt the existence of a loving God. I’m not diminishing the emotional heartache of not being able to conceive. I am suggesting that elevating such things to the level of spiritual crisis, leading to the rejection of faith altogether, reveals a very weak and shallow faith. A faith that had never been exposed to real challenge or, at the very least, never been discipled for a life of challenge.

This is deeper than the “health and wealth gospel” that is no gospel at all, being proclaimed in 4 out of every 10 evangelical churches. This is broader and more insidious. It’s the belief that we are entitled to a life free of difficulty and challenge, and when difficulty and challenge come our way we shake our fist at God in either doubt or condemnation. Or we simply collapse emotionally and spiritually and wallow in self-pity, elevating our issue to the level of Jeremiah’s lament or Christ’s passion. There’s no spiritual toughness, no spiritual backbone.

In his most recent book, Malcolm Gladwell explores several ideas, but his central exploration is how it is weakness that often makes us strong. Or, more to the point, strength comes from overcoming weakness. I was particularly drawn to the second part of the book, “The Theory of Desirable Difficulty.” There he tells the story of David Boies, who credits his dyslexia for forcing him to compensate by developing skills of observation and memory. Gladwell asks: “You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you?”

Here lies a deeply important and deeply biblical idea.

As a pastor, I’m often confronted with the confusion and bewilderment surrounding why God might allow pain and suffering into a human life. I know one of the reasons. It is to strengthen us, for what has wounded us most deeply is often what has made us who we are.

Think of how it works with our muscles. To build muscle, you have to actually tear the muscle. And then, when it heals, the scar tissue builds the muscle up and strengthens it.

Biologists have witnessed this in their work among plants and animals for years. They call it the adversity principle. They have discovered that habitual, ongoing well-being is not good for a species. An existence without challenge is not healthy.

You see it in the flabby animals at a zoo that have their food delivered to them every day.

You see it in rainforest trees—because water is everywhere, they don’t have to extend their root system more than a few feet below the surface. As a result, the slightest windstorm can knock them down. But a tree that is planted in dry land has to send its roots down 30 feet or more in search of water. Then, not even a gale force wind can knock those trees down.

It’s no different with our life. Our pain is often what has developed us, strengthened us, allowed us the ability to grow. And that is, of course, precisely what the Bible teaches: “… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3, NIV).

I am sorry for those who have early first trimester miscarriages, have a car breakdown when money is tight, have to put a beloved pet down or have a cousin who has shingles. But again, to elevate such everyday struggles to the level of spiritual or emotional devastation betrays a significant deficiency not only in faith, but in perspective.

I think of Corrie ten Boom who endured the horrors of Ravensbruck, the infamous Nazi concentration camp for women. (You can read her story in the anointed pages of her biography The Hiding Place.) After her imprisonment, Corrie traveled throughout the world, telling her story of suffering in the context of a faith in God. For 33 years following Ravensbruck, she never had a permanent home. When she was 85 years old, some friends provided her with a lovely home in California. It was a luxury she never dreamed she would have. One day, as a friend was leaving her home, he said, “Corrie, hasn’t God been good to give you this beautiful place?”

She replied firmly, “God was good when I was in Ravensbruck, too.”

So maybe the next time challenge comes, there should be less lawn mowing and certainly less wallowing. Perhaps we should just pick up a copy of The Hiding Place and be reminded of the role faith is meant to play in the face of adversity.

And remember that God is good to us there, too.

Carefully Contending

counselThis is wise counsel (which I need to heed more carefully) from D. A. Carson as he comments on Galatians 2.1ff:

“While the Gospel is something worth contending for, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about this business. When Peter’s inconsistency is public and doing public damage, Paul’s rebuke is public (2.11-21). When Paul is trying to clear the air, find out what is going on, and present the tenor of his own work, he approaches the others ‘privately’ (2.2). His concern, after all, is the advance of the undiluted Gospel, not his own public vindication (emphasis added). When we find ourselves in the place where we must tenaciously contend for the Gospel, we must think through how to do so most winsomely and strategically.”

Supremely Sad

liar_liar_pants_on_fireSeptember 24, 1789 is the date the Judiciary Act – establishing the Supreme Court – was passed by Congress and signed by George Washington.

Happy Birthday, Supremes.

Happy?

Perhaps not. Now come other accusations against nominee Kavanaugh.

I gag when I read that the latest accuser (Ramirez) spent six days “carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney.”  Huh? Let’s gather together, sing a few rounds of Kumbaya, and “assess our memories.”

Then Stormy’s attorney utters a bunch of accusatory words, offering not the slightest shred of evidence or sources.

Wonder how many others are “carefully assessing”?

Let’s consider some possibilities:

  1. Kavanaugh’s first public accuser is telling the truth.
  2. This first accuser is telling the truth as she remembers it, but is mistaken.
  3. Kavanaugh is telling the truth in denying the event happened.
  4. Kavanaugh is telling the truth as he remembers it, but is mistaken.
  5. Blasely-Ford is lying.
  6. Kavanaugh is lying.

If you’ve never been drunk or high, possibilities 2 and 4 may seem ridiculous.

But as one who, sadly, spent many years as an alcoholic and drug abuser, I know such things can happen…ranging from confusion to a total lack of memory of some incidents.

Obviously points 1 and  3 both can’t be true.

As I’ve said before, if Kavanaugh is lying, not only should he not be confirmed, he should be disbarred. If it can be proven Blasely-Ford is intentionally lying she should be charged with something. If it can be proven that some Democrat leadership has played her in this episode, heads should roll.

But I fear we will never know…with certainty.

And I fear many good men and women of all stripes will not accept nomination for much of any position, simply because they don’t want themselves or their families put under the witch-hunting microscope of background checks.

So, on this birthday of the Supreme Court; it may also mark the week of its effective demise.

 

 

 

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Kavanaugh/Accuser Thoughts – and a Warning

Like you, I have no clue whether or not the Kavanaugh accuser is intentionally lying.

There are multiple possibilities.

Since you asked (or didn’t), here is what I think:

  • If Kavanaugh is lying (and I do not believe he is) he should not only withdraw, but be disbarred
  • Feinstein should clearly explain why she kept the letter secret for so long
  • It is  idiotic to call for an FBI investigation…of what? She doesn’t know when it (allegedly) happened, or where it (allegedly) happened. What’s to investigate? Besides, assault/attempted rape is not a Federal crime.
  • The statements of some of the Democrats are so beyond-idiotic it must be embarrassing to the majority of the party
  • Other than the fact he nominated Kavanaugh, this has nothing to do with Trump
  • So much for “innocent until proven guilty…”

So much more, but that’s enough…

Now, the warning (especially to those in vocational ministry, but applicable to all) {especially if you are male, but applicable to females also}

Back in the old days we were warned, “Never be alone with someone of the opposite sex.” Anyone with functioning brain cells knows that for several years that needs to read “Never be alone with anyone.”

On this you need to be “paranoid.”

All it takes is one accusation (true or false) and you are done.

Period.

The more vocal you are about Biblical absolutes – like abortion, or the fact that, Biblically, marriage is between a man and a woman; the more of a target you become.

And, as if anyone needed proof, this episode proves idiots of any stripe will do anything to discredit someone with whom they disagree.

Be careful! Be “wise as a serpant”.

I also wonder how many good men and women are going to turn down the opportunity to serve in any capacity fearing – with justification – the witch hunt. And I do mean “any capacity”…for this will, like dung, trickle-down…

 

It’s Not Fingers in Their Ears!

“Why won’t they listen???”

“Why doesn’t he/she get it???”

“What’s the matter with them???”finger_ears

I’ve heard (and voiced) those questions often; asked by people young and old who have tried to share Jesus and the gospel.

One teenager said, “It’s like they sit their with their fingers stuck in their ears!”

Nope.

“If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” (2 Corinthians 4.3,4)

“But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” (1 Corinthians 2.14)

This is liberating truth!

We can’t prove/argue/convince anyone of the gospel.

Only God can open their eyes; open their minds.

Our job (every Christian, by the way, not “just” those gifted with evangelism or the “pros”) is to brag on Jesus. Our job is to ask God’s Spirit to enable us to walk our talk. And our job is to “talk.”

His “job” is to open.

40 years? FOUR decades? Forty YEARS?

Yup.

On August 12, 1978 I graduated from Christ Unlimited Bible Institute, which exists no more.

It was started by Kansas City Youth For Christ (which exists no more) in 1975; and I was in the third class.cubi class

I had heard about the school shortly after being paroled…met Jerry Johnston (then a whiz kid for both Jerry Falwell and KCYFC) in California…he told me about CUBI, I applied…lo and behold they accepted me..got my parole moved to KC…and on August 30, 1977 flew from LA to KC with a few bucks; no job, no place to stay.

Within hours God had provided a job (Papa John Turner, Office Manager, heard me typing and hired me on the spot); and a couple days later a place to stay (with Scott Lash and Ken Kirkman). We called our somewhat shaky “house” COWUSA; as I was from California, Scott from Ohio, and Ken from Washington.

The schooling was great…with Dr. Dean Potratz as primary Bible teacher; Dr. Al Metsker as encourager, whipper, and teacher of youth ministry. Several staff members and other guest speakers spoke truth into us; but the best education came from being “slave labor” for KCYFC for hours and hours…truly great learning experiences…

And had God revealed to me what He was up to as I got my diploma on August 12, 1978 it would have scared me to death…

I’m still amazed (and grateful) I get to do what I get to do…and stunned to recognize that I’ve been “on support” for four decades…

God has big sleeves, and He often has what appears to my very limited view “tricks” up them…but He has blessed me inexplicably cubi diplomaand consistently. I’ve spent over four years of my life as a camp speaker; and have shared Christ in schools, prisons, jails, camps, churches, civic organizations and more.

“He opens doors that no man can shut…”

I’m amazed. I’m blessed. I’m thankful…so very thankful.

And if God can use me….yeah, He can use you…and wants to use you…not “someday”, but “today.”

If The Shoe Fits…

Seth Godin is a genius.

I know nothing of his spiritual state.

Truth is truth regardless of who says it.

Got this from him yesterday as I flew home from Philadelphia.

Doesn’t take a lot of “work” to see spiritual implication of a “secular” truth:

“There are two paths, really:

“I will serve just enough to make the maximum profit”

or

“I will profit just enough to provide the maximum service.”