Tag Archives: Age

The Recipe of Stereotype

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV)

The other day I wrote about seeing through stereotypes, as it is very common for people to paint certain “other” people groups with a broad brush of generalization. I approached this notion from the perspective of being the perpetrator of the stereotype, but this morning I find myself thinking about it from the perspective of being stereotype’s casualty.

For the record, I have never suffered serious injury or been particularly harmed by another person’s stereotype. I have, however, experienced being labeled, misunderstood, falsely accused, and socially marginalized in specific situations because I have always been up-front about being a Jesus follower. I get that stereo-types are often rooted in partial-truths. The world is full of judgmental, condemning, narrow-minded groups and individuals who wear the label of Christian. When I have been causality of stereotype, I recognize that I am being lumped into one’s mental basket with them.

Here’s a thing that I’ve found to be true in my faith journey. The further I get in the journey the more clearly I see my own faults, the more important I find it to own my mistakes, and the more readily I feel the on-going need for God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness. I find myself less concerned about the moral speck of dust in the eyes of non-believers because I’m blinded by the 2×6 of moral failure in my own. Whatever righteous anger I might feel is not stirred by sinners in need of Jesus’ grace, but by the legalistic, self-righteous religious types who sourced the stereotype with which I’ve occasionally been labeled.

Paul’s letters to Timothy are, chronologically, the final two of his surviving letters.  They were written late in his life to the young protégé who traveled with him and became a leader among the groups of Jesus followers they founded. One of the interesting observations to be made in these two very personal and heart-felt letters is how different they are in spirit and tone from the fiery letters Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia and the Corinth earlier in his journey. Paul’s passion for Jesus’ message and his ministry have not abated in any way, but there is a tenderness and humility with which he is passing the baton. Paul is embracing Jesus’ mercy and his personal need of grace as he owns that of all sinners “I am the worst.”

Stereotype is made with just a few ingredients: a pinch of truth, a pound of ignorance, and a cup of passivity. I’ve been guilty of it more times than I’ve been a victim of it, and so this morning I find myself whispering a prayer of grace, forgiveness, and blessing over those who may have stereotyped me unfairly along the way.

Outward Groaning; Inward Growing

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16

For the past two months my life has been out of sync. You may have noticed that my posts have been more intermittent than usual. It started with the holidays when our kids and grandson, Milo, arrived home Scotland in early December. It was a joy having them with us for the month of December, though having a one-year-old (who is still trying to figure out normal sleep patterns) in the house tends to disrupt the normal schedule a bit. Then came Christmas, our daughter home from South Carolina, and, well, you get the picture.

I was looking forward to life getting back to normal after New Year’s. Then, on New Year’s Eve day, I was working out at Cross-Fit and I threw my back out on the rowing machine. Ugh. Unexpected and not fun at all. It’s been a slow recovery. A few days later, Wendy had surgery on her foot to take care of a pesky neuroma that’s been bothering her the past few years. That meant she was laid up on the couch with her foot up for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I developed a nasty chest cold that would not let go (still hasn’t completely). Wendy and I were quite a pair laying next to each other on the couch. Our house became a domestic M*A*S*H unit. Add to the mix a marathon week of business travel and some brand new responsibilities at work. Oh yes, and did I mention about 18 inches of now and sub-zero temperatures? Yada, yada, yada. Blah, blah, blah. Again, you get the picture.

One of the things that I’ve learned along this life journey is not to fight against the terrain I am traversing in the moment. I’ve learned to lean in and embrace each season and what it brings with it, even if it’s not what I want it to be. December was joyful disruption. It was a time to lean in to family, guests, and celebrations that fubar the normal flow of life and schedule. January has not been joyful disruption. It’s been a rocky road of injury, illness and the subsequent need to focus our energies on rest and recovery. Which has meant sleeping in a lot of mornings, and not getting to my regular chapter-a-day post.

And so, in the quiet this morning, I silently identified with Paul’s words, pasted at the top of this post. In the past few years I’ve noticed distinct changes in my body. I need more sleep than ever before. When I get sick, I require more rest. It takes a little longer to recuperate than before. I need regular, and more focused, exercise for my health and well-being. In other words, my body is showing the very natural signs of its age. Spiritually, however, I feel as though I’m in a time of unprecedented growth. My spirit feels more alive than ever. I’m making new discoveries. I find myself pushing further up, and further in. I’m less distracted by the silliness of this life, and more focused on Spirit and truth. It’s awesome.

Outwardly groaning, inwardly growing. That’s the terrain right now, and I’m embracing it. It is what it is. I’m sorry my posts have been a little sporadic of late. I’m getting back to normal. It’s just taking a little bit longer than I expected.

Cheers, my friend. Have a great week!

 

Spiritually There are No Age Limits

The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.
Jeremiah 1:1-3; 6-7 (NIV)

While in high school I was part of an incredible church youth group. I almost typed the adjective “unique,” but to this day I don’t think there was anything “unique” about me and my peers. We were typical high schoolers with all the angst, foolishness, idealism, drama and absentmindedness of any group of teens. Our youth pastor for most of my high school years was a man named Andy Bales whose journey has taken him to do amazing things for the homeless in Los Angeles. Our church’s worship leader was a gentleman named Mike Mars.

The thing about Andy and Mike was that they believed that God could accomplish far more through us than anyone else believed or expected (even ourselves). Andy didn’t just disciple us, he taught us how to disciple others including our parents. Mike didn’t just assemble a “youth choir” to sing in front of our parents once or twice a year. Mike taught us how to put together an entire program, how to work together as a team, and then sent us on the road almost every Sunday of the school year to minister to other churches all over our state. Mike didn’t travel with us. He trusted us to do everything ourselves from making a first impression to set up, rehearsal, performance, giving the message, tearing down and loading out for the trip home. A couple of parents or adults chaperones rode along to watch, but they never had to do a thing.

Many of the “kids” in my youth group have gone on to continue in vocational ministries as missionaries, pastors, ministry directors and youth workers. I observed that most others have approached their life journeys as ministry opportunities to serve God as educators, doctors, and professionals in the business community.

This personal experience has colored my own world view. When our daughters were young people I tried to instill in them that they could be used by God’s Spirit and have an impact for God’s Kingdom right now. I’m proud of what they attempted, accomplished, and learned.

I am fond of reminding my local gathering of Jesus’ followers that no where in God’s Message is there an age requirement for being a believer, being called by God, being filled by the Spirit, having spiritual gifts, or exercising those gifts for God’s Kingdom. In fact, the list of Biblical characters who were called by God as young people (without education, without training, without official institutional certification of any kind) is impressive: Timothy, Mary, David, Samuel, Joseph, Esther, and Mark.

In today’s opening chapter of Jeremiah’s anthology of prophetic messages he shares that he was called by God as a boy. As typical of young people, Jeremiah responded to God, “but I’m just a kid!” But age is not a qualification for being called by God or doing God’s work. And when young people are called by God they tend to have spiritually productive life journeys. Jeremiah himself was a prophet for 40 years during a period of time when life expectancy itself was around 30 years (if you were one of the lucky few to survive infancy).

Forgive me for sounding like an old curmudgeon, but along my life journey I’ve observed that our culture seems to expect less and less of our young people. We protect them. We shelter them from life’s natural pains. We entertain them endlessly and hover over them to ensure that they experience minimal discomfort. We build up their egos while minimizing their opportunities to experience the lessons of accomplishing things on their own and learning the invaluable lessons of failure. We keep extending childhood to the point that becoming a capable, responsible adult is a post-graduate crisis experience with its own word: adulting.

This morning I’m thanking God for teaching me as a boy that I had a role to play in the Kingdom of God and that role began immediately. I’m saying a prayer of gratitude for Andy and for Mike who believed in me and my peers more than we believed in ourselves. I’m praying for a generation of young people who will rebel against being treated like snowflakes and who will lead a spiritual storm of revival and culture change that no one expects.

The old curmudgeon rant is over. Have a great day.


Through This Stage and the Next

Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)

It’s a new year. The craziness of the fall, being neck-deep in production of a musical, gave way to a busy holiday season. For the first time in months Wendy and I are beginning to feel just a smidgen of margin. With it, I am feeling the need to get back into important life routines derailed by the tyranny of the urgent.

Into this mix I’m also continuing to feel, acknowledge, and understand the change in life’s seasons. I was on stage in two shows this past year, and in both I was asked to color my hair so as to hide the gray and make me look younger for the audience. I feel myself changing in almost every aspect of life. I’m doing my best to acknowledge, to accept, to understand, and to embrace the changes.

Some mornings I read the chapter and it feels like God meets me right where I am in the moment, with a conversational gift appropriate to exactly where I am in my journey. So it was this morning with the prophetic words of the seer Isaiah which I’ve pasted at the top of this post.

My body is feeling the soreness of working out again. My brain is feeling the strain of transition to projects and tasks that need to be accomplished. My spirit is feeling stretched by my annual New Year’s contemplation:

Where have I been?
Where am I at?
Where am I headed?

For a contemplative Type 4 like me, it can feel a bit disconcerting. This morning I’m thanking God for the reminder that He will continue to sustain, carry, and rescue – through this stage of the journey and into the next, and the next, and the next.

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Complacency

When you have had children and children’s children, and become complacent in the land….
Deuteronomy 4:25 (NRSV)

It has been fascinating for me to live in a small town. Growing up in the city, I never had much of a sense of community heritage and generational patterns, but you see these things more clearly in a small town. Families stick closer together. Lives are more intertwined. Businesses and farms are generational. Faith is part of the fabric of both family and community. Traditions bind generations.

I have also observed that there is a subtle sense of complacency that sets in across generations, especially as it relates to faith. Rather than being the personal, intimate relationship Jesus talked about and called us to it seems to me that, for some, faith slowly becomes just another communal tradition. Go through the motions. Keep up the tradition. It’s simply what we do; It’s what we have always done.

The older I get the more I realize that it takes effort not to experience complacency in our spiritual journey. Moses warned the people about it in today’s chapter as they prepared to enter the promised land.  Along the way the patterns become habits, habits become traditions, and traditions are mindlessly acted out as they have always been done for generations. But, there’s no real investment of heart or mind in it. It’s Life-less. And then, bad things can happen.

This week I’m taking up the task of thinking about the things I continually do from work to faith to recreation and relationships. I want to be aware of areas in which complacency is setting in and try to understand how it affects me and those around me. Perhaps there are some changes I need to make to consciously re-engage my heart and mind.

chapter a day banner 2015

Heroic Courage? (Perhaps Simply Tired)

3301233153_fce5cd186c_zNow when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Daniel 6:10 (NIV)

This morning I’ve been thinking about the context of Daniel’s life. He had been living in exile since his youth. It is likely that his family starved to death or were slaughtered in the siege of Jerusalem where he witnessed horrific atrocities. He was little more than a slave to his captors. He may have earned their respect, but he never escaped the hatred and discrimination of the people he served. He had survived the insane rages of Nebuchadnezzar. He had witnessed the divinely appointed downfall of Belshazzar. He was now living under his third foreign monarch and yet another group of power hungry middle managers scheming his destruction. Through it all he was a stranger in a strange land, despised by his foreign peers, and misunderstood by virtually everyone around him. His entire life, Daniel held firm to one thing: his faith.

It did not surprise me this morning when I read that upon reading Darius’ decree, Daniel simply went about doing what he had always done. Daniel had seen rulers come and rulers go. He’d continually witnessed and experienced their silly, ego-driven edicts. Through all of the massive political transitions he had survived, Daniel understood that he served and was answerable to a higher authority who did not lose His throne to the next despot.

The threat of the lions den may have been very real, but by the time his political enemies sprung their trap, I find that Daniel responded with an almost fatalistic detachment. He held loosely to the things of this world. When Belshazzar offered him riches for his interpretation in yesterday’s chapter, Daniel told him to keep them. The only thing Daniel really cared about was the one thing that had gotten him through, and that was his faith. He was not going to stop praying even if it did mean being devoured by lions. I wonder if, by this time in his life, there was a part of him that would have welcomed an end to his earthly exile.

This morning I’m thinking about this earthly journey. I’m thinking about how my own personal thoughts and priorities have changed over time. There are things to which I once clung, but now hold rather loosely. There are things which I prize more than ever that have little tangible, earthly value. When I was young I thought of Daniel as a man of super-hero style courage, but I think I misunderstood him. I’m beginning to believe that the Daniel who was thrown to the lions was simply a wise old man who was tired, who wanted only to be left alone to live out his faith, and who didn’t really care anymore what anyone did to him.

A lot of Words

source: disowned via Flickr
source: disowned via Flickr

I too will have my say;
I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words,
and the spirit within me compels me;
Job 32:17-18 (NIV)

Wendy and I often joke about the differences between men and women when it comes to words. I have heard it said, and perhaps it’s an old wives tale, that women have more words than men. Yet, I am reminded of Tolkien’s wisdom when he wrote, “Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know.” 

There are often nights, especially when I’ve been on the road for a week and Wendy has been sequestered along at home, that our heads hit the pillows yet a steady stream of conversation emanates from Wendy’s side of the bed. I quietly strain to maintain consciousness. Wendy will turn and see my struggle and laugh.

“Can you tell that I still have a lot of words?” she’ll ask.

I nod silently.

“But you’ve been gone all week and I haven’t had anyone to talk to!” she’ll exclaim as she cuddles in next to me.

Just the other night at a Christmas party, I realized that it’s not just a Mars and Venus issue. I have grown quieter in social settings over the years. When I was younger I had a lot more words. I was a steady stream of youthful conversation, wisdom, and diatribes. I speak less today than I did back then. I tend to ask more questions. I ponder more. I mull things over more in my head. Words are more precious to me than they used to be, and they carry more meaning for me. I am more mindful of wasting them.

In today’s chapter, we unexpectedly meet a devout young man named Elihu (his name means “He is my God”). Elihu has been waiting in the wings listening to Job and his three friends debate. The young man finally speaks, and he is honest when he says, “I am full of words.” We’re going to get five straight chapters of his youthful exuberance starting today.

Today, Elihu has me thinking about words. Despite my speaking less than I used, I still feel like I talk more than is good for myself or others. I’m pondering the wisdom of knowing when to speak and when to be silent. As we enter a week full of family and friends, I want to hear more and speak with purpose.