Saying Thank You

We, like all good parents, are training our children to say “thank you”. It has been interesting to see them slowly but surely pick it up. It started with external behaviour and gradually it’s beginning to become an internal reality. It is becoming something they understand; starting to know ‘why’ they should say thank you, not just doing the ‘right thing’. They don’t always get it right but they are becoming thankful kids, not kids who can just say thank you.

It’s always two steps forward, one step back, and I’m thankful for their progress. But as they’ve matured in thanksgiving a strange thing has happened: it has become more challenging for me. Why? Because it reminds me to ‘practice what I preach’. Literally!

As we’ve trained our kids it’s reminded me again that what I’m training them in is something that needs to be real to me – both inside & out; both mind set & behaviour. God has been helping me to have “thank you” as both an internal perspective and an external posture.

It’s been a challenging but life-giving journey for me. I have had many, many opportunities over the past few years. There’s been times when it’s been easy and a joy to be thankful and times when it’s been through gritted teeth or sheer determination. To “know” something is easy; to believe and live it out through every circumstance is hard. Frequently, over the last season, we have reminded each other that ‘God is good’;  reminding ourselves of who He is, His character, His promise and His good purposes. This has helped a “thank you’ rise in our hearts regardless of our circumstances.

“Thank you” as an internal perspective and an external posture.

thank you, sign, wall, neon, light

It’s easy to try and ‘do it’: to do the right thing or to engage in the right behaviour. But the problem is if your posture is right but your perspective is wrong it feels disjointed, heavy, dutiful and falters when you run out of energy and effort.

I am an external person; it is easy for me to try to do something without letting it penetrate beneath. I’ve found that a good jolt helps me! Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful to be jolted – to be reminded that ‘the One who calls us is faithful’ and that He is bigger than today’s circumstance and that He is the same God, yesterday, today and forever. As I remember Him it puts who I am in perspective.

# Look at the big picture – A leader I respect recently shared that when he’s struggling with a circumstance he stops & steps back and thinks “what will this look like in a week, in a month, in a year and in a decade and how will I feel in a week, in a month, a year and a decade?” It has been helpful for me to set today in context & to change my perspective on today.

# Look to others – Sometimes we don’t have the answers. Sometimes we don’t have the faith. Sometimes we don’t have the capacity and ability to put one foot in front of the other. That is where God’s voice comes through community. It’s where community really comes into its own. We look sideways – not to compare or compete –  but to raise faith and to see God at work. It helps to see others, the way they hold themselves through trial, under pressure or in battle, and to see how God is present and at work in that place with that person reminds me of His presence with me in my circumstance. To be encouraged, uplifted, cheered on by others helps me to keep going, slowly but surely in the right direction with the right perspective.

# Look at what you’ve got – the world pushes us to feel we need more, to know more and to understand more. It pushes us to look sideways at what God is doing somewhere else or in someone else. It’s much more life-giving to look at what we’ve got; to look at what God has given you, what He is doing and where He is at work.

# Look at the bible – I am always struck that the Heroes of the faith written about in Hebrews didn’t receive their prize. Yet. What God spoke to them about and set before them they didn’t receive in full. Yet. We have an opportunity and challenge for our names to be written alongside those great heroes. Those heroes mentioned in Hebrews are not the only ones that inspire faith & produce perseverance in us. We see throughout the Bible many of God’s people who struggled, journeyed and  lived with a ‘thank you’ through all the ups & down’s of following God.

Life is tough. We have various questions, challenges, ‘moving parts’ in our life. We know many people who are struggling at the moment. We know many people who are in pain, are ill or who have loved ones who are ill. In the midst of questions, battle and adventure how do you have a ‘Thank you” that’s secure in your heart and expressed through your life?

My Void

Anna wrote last week about The Void. She talked about how in the space she has, with the quiet and echo of silence, she hears God afresh; that the silence and space is a gift to be received not a struggle to survive.

My Void is different. Anna & I have committed to a season where I am travelling for the ministry God has given us. There’s a lot that we do locally & together but the season we’re in also involves some travel that involves me “going” & Anna Continue reading

How to make Missional Communities and children work together

There have been countless studies on how children learn, how they interact with information and how they grow.

One of the themes of this research is that there are three primary environments in which children learn – classroom, apprenticeship and immersion:

# Classroom – The child is taught something by somebody. They listen and then process the information being shared with them.
# Apprenticeship – The child is shown something by somebody. The child is involved in, and so learns from, a process. Information is engaged with and processed through implementation, experimentation and application.
# Immersion – The child experiences and gathers information from the culture, environment or context within which they live.

Sunday morning kids work is 45 minutes, an hour at best, in the week of a child’s life. There might be activities, object lessons or games to go along with the bible teaching to help the children think through how to apply what they are hearing. It’s good sharing of information but it’s still a classroom environment.

Missional community, extended families of 15 to 30 adults (and any number of children!!) on mission together, give children & young people the environment to learn by being part of a community that lives out its faith. They are given the opportunity to be part of a group that looks to share its faith with others that don’t know Jesus. They don’t just attend an event but learn from many different and varied life experiences. They are encouraged to take more responsibility and participate; to be part of the community – not just to be talked at but talked with. In a missional community context children are not just waiting for adults to define something but shaping and crafting it themselves. They can be involved in, and contribute to, the life of the community.

Children learn by living out their faith – not just learning about their faith from others. They take hold of it for themselves through apprenticeship and immersion – seeing their parents lead, learning how to study the Bible for themselves and share Biblical reflections themselves. The community necessitates that young people help with younger children. Children can share with adults their thoughts on a passage, serving and sharing faith together as family.

There are many different ways communities function as they gather but three ways we found missional communities can ‘work’ well as they gather together have come by thinking about family environments; environments that are normal to families, both Christian & non-Christian.

Three environments all families interact with  are:

1) The Educational environment (i.e school, nursery)

2) The Coffee Shop environment (i.e. Starbucks, restaurants)

3) The Party dynamic (i.e. birthdays)

# The Educational environment – is where the parents & children are learning together. We encourage families and extended families (missional communities) to think about rhythms of family prayer, worship and study. One of our family missional communities had gatherings where they took a bible passage and the children & young people came up with a drama, craft and teaching lesson from what they’d learnt and then shared with the adults.  Lots of applause and then good conversations were had afterwards!

The Coffee shop – is an adult environment with children present – tables, papers and coffee with activities in the room. This environment encourages the informal relationships and interactions between children, parents and the extended family. One geographical missional community did this as an access point for non-Christians with prayer cards and opportunities for conversations on the tables.

# The Children’s party environment – (if you haven’t yet got kids there’s a treat in store!!!) is an environment where parents serve the kids – everything is set up for the kids to have a great time together – noise, mess, chaos, games, fun………sweets!!

 

 

This is a great way to really help relationships & their faith come alive because if there’s one thing kids can do it’s have fun!! This is also an environment where non-christian parents and children can engage – enjoying the experience together.

Parents taking the responsibility as primary disciplers of their children and doing this in the context of a missional community is often a major but important shift

Effective missional communities use some or all of these dynamics as they gather and disciple their children rather than abdicate to the children’s workers or do a smaller, “worse” version of sunday school in a side room whilst the adults gather. Central children’s ministry should function to resource the communities – prayer, training, resources so that families can express their faith locally in community.

The synergy that comes from both a Sunday celebration (with central ministry resourcing) and a missional community lifestyle for discipleship of children is a dynamic that works for both parents & children. They are able to grow not only in relationship with God but also each other and they learn, together, how to be a family of missional disciples.

It’s not easy – but neither is being a parent!!

 

Addicted to the Event or Living the Lifestyle

Written by Rich…

I have been thinking and talking through with a lot of people how to pursue a deeper relationship with God.

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Now the first important thing to say is we cannot earn His presence, His delight and connection with Him – we already have it, in and through Jesus.

But I do think we are called to actively Continue reading

Checking the shore

(This fab post is written by Rich)

We can get so busy. Caught up in all the things that “are so important” or the things that might, and probably will, “fall apart” if we don’t do them. The events that will “not be as good when we’re not there” and the people “that will struggle if we’re not around”. Sometimes we share these opinions out loud, but usually they are a hidden, personal dialogue. This hidden dialogue so often drives us. We build our world, where all these things depend on us. Or so we think.

We so often, and I am guilty as charged, construct a world with us at the centre. We are the doorway, the celebrity, the saviour, the ‘one’. And we are really busy doing it all.

I once heard someone say we can substitute the word “busy” for the word “important”. Saying “I’m really busy” is actually saying to your listener or audience “I’m really important”. We fall into that trap.

I’ve recently been on retreat and have been reflecting on the hidden life of a leader (as well as a follower of Jesus, husband, father and friend). If we do not have the right assessment of our self and what we’re doing it does two things.  Firstly, we get very busy & stressed and secondly, we miss the point!

We get busy.

The change of scenery, of pace and surroundings of the retreat was so good. I was jolted and encouraged out of current patterns & mindsets. The change helped me to see a little more clearly. I realised that so much is done on auto-pilot; that I step in, fix, manage, hold tightly and try to keep all the moving parts juggled and perfectly balanced together. I sometimes do this intentionally but more often that not I drift into these patterns. Like the effect of the tide, I am taken subtly further and further away from the point & patterns I want. I don’t realise it until there is jolt – a conversation, a disappointment, a challenge. The retreat was the opportunity to see where the drift had taken me.

What would it look like if I regularly checked the shore? Where am I and where should I be? Am I drifting? How do I keep my course? 

If we don’t stop, look & listen we miss the point. It’s  like crossing a road. If we put our head down and run hard we may make it across the road – or we may hit something on the road or something on the road may hit us! We need to stop, look and listen.

We are designed to be heroic as we take on the adventure of life. We are called to be ‘running a race’ and heading ‘towards a prize’. To be running alongside others. To be sacrificing & battling for good. We’re on an adventure with a quest to be contended for. There is so much God has, by His grace, placed in us. So much He has in His heart for us.

In story the hero always wins – but he does it through battle & sacrifice and on behalf of others. There is a cost. A cost.  I wish there wasn’t, but there is.

We live in an era of comfort & celebrity – not heroes. Many of the messages we hear overtly & covertly from the media are about keeping or improving what we have and creating an environment of comfort. Many of the popular figures we read about, hear and watch are celebrity figures. They are exalted as celebrities – they are prospering but not for the good of others. A celebrity usually wins and has an adventure but it’s disconnected from normality and generally comes with little personal cost and primarily for personal gain.

And the biggest danger? That we watch the celebrities adventure rather than living our own. Reality TV is a counterfeit that we watch and are held captive by. We sit watching it rather than living it out. And then, in the middle of the reality TV show we watch the advert breaks and are bombarded with all that we ‘need’ or ‘should have’ – gathering possessions rather than experiences & memories.

I want to be jolted again. And then again. Not to drift with the tide.