Autonomous Christianity Is Not Church

I'm currently processing how the ecclesiological imagination inherited from Christendom (modernity, and more particularly Protestantism/Evangelicalism) influences our current church endeavors, and how a freed missional imagination may envision a more faithful embodied witness of Jesus and his church. I began by discussing some issues our church encountered along our missional church planting journey (Are we there yet?). Last week I suggested that hidden within our language and reasons for shutting the doors of a church reveals that our imagination for “what church is” is stuck on the practice of Sunday worship (Sunday is not Church). This week I hope to move us away from viewing the Christian life as an autonomous experience and move us toward a communal ecclesia.

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The late Christendom, and more particularly the Protestant/Evangelical, imagination sees both salvation and the life we live as an individual experience governed by personal freedom. This imagination leads not only to autonomous churches but also autonomous Christian living. In this sense, churches are centered around (or founded upon) Sunday morning experiences where music creates an atmosphere for the individual to have a personal experience with the Word of God preached from the pulpit (or stage). Once an individual says yes to Jesus (gets “saved”) very little, if anything, often changes regarding the lives they live.

This is not church. The person remains an autonomous individual with no deeper invitation into community or participation as co-creator. Some may join a small group or volunteer on Sunday morning but their relationship with God remains strictly personal and belief-oriented. How God may be working in the world and/or organizing his people (including the individual) does not enter their consciousness. We need a new imagination to center our churches around. One that breaks free of autonomy. 

The Gospel, Salvation, and Ecclesiological Imagination

The Gospel is about so much more than salvation and the Church is about so much more than a Sunday service. Some components of the Gospel are often ignored: the establishment of a new King in Jesus, and the politics and economy of his Kingdom. When we are planting or leading a church, we are submitting ourselves to the governing presence of Jesus that includes his politics and economy. As citizens of this Kingdom we are encouraged through our participation in the politics and economics of Jesus so much that we choose to leave behind our autonomy and learn to live in mutual submission to one another. In doing so, we become a Christ-embodied people of God (the church), called and formed to be a people for the world. 

Regarding salvation, when we suggest that someone is saved we often think of what they have been saved from but we rarely think about what they are being saved into and for what purpose. Similarly, social justice folks often think of liberating oppressed individuals and people groups from their oppressors but rarely do they consider what they are being liberated into. These are questions the missional church must consider from the beginning. When we say we are planting a church, we are suggesting that we are participating with God in forming a new people who are both becoming and co-creating (with God) the new creation.

On Facebook the other day, David Fitch discussed the phenomenology of salvation: "The shift from accepting Jesus as Savior (and Lord) to submitting to (putting complete trust in) Jesus as Lord (and Savior) fundamentally changes the phenomenology (experience) of salvation. From seeing/experiencing God at work in me (first) to seeing God at work in the world (first) governing all things in Christ for His purposes. Into this I am saved." This shift also fundamentally changes the phenomenology of ecclesia (church).

When we say that we are establishing new ecclesia** (planting a church), we are in essence submitting to Jesus as Lord as he forms a community of people participating with God at work in the world via Christ’s governing. With Jesus as Lord, we begin to organize ourselves around his politics (way of being) and economics. The fruit of such work looks a lot less like a Sunday morning worship gathering and a lot more like local fraternal communities. I want to use the language of family here but my fear is that our view of family is still too nuclear.

A Debt Based Economy and the Church

One dominant narrative creating a significant amount of stress and anxiety for individuals is our debt based economy. The average student now graduates with close to $40K in student loan debt. (The figure would be much higher if you take out students who do not use student loans.) This means the average person is already $10K in debt after one year of adulthood. Add on car loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc., many many people struggle with stress and anxiety due to debt. Stress and anxiety cause many to feel as though they’re drowning.

In the world of autonomous Christian worship, the person drowning in debt, stress, and anxiety may come to a Sunday service seeking some form of hope, hear the message of “salvation” and say, “Yes! I need hope and salvation.” During the worship, the person may be crying out to God for help with the stress and anxiety while sitting right next to him are others thanking God for a new raise and bonus. Unfortunately, the thought of how the economics of Jesus could be drawing them together never cross their minds. In the economics of Jesus, the one who has much should discover ways to help the one with little. In this scenario above, the one who just got a raise and a bonus could learn how she may help the one filled with stress and anxiety.

In a communal ecclesia**, there are many ways for a person to be liberated from a debt based economy in order to learn to live into the economics of Jesus. At Hill City, we have discovered that as long as a person is in debt, they are not fully free to live fully live into the mission of God. A person in debt is more dependent upon their job, often forced to work longer hours, and their income is tied up paying banks interest while paying off loans. We are asking how to escape this reality so that we can spend more time with one another as well as our neighbors.

We have and are continuing to live together in order to share the burden of the high cost of living in Northern Virginia. Those in our community skilled in budgeting sit down with others to review their debts, spending habits, and teach them about money. And we are learning to share resources. My family couldn't afford to purchase a car several years ago, but we realized a neighbor also needed a car and had a different commuting schedule, so we pooled our money and purchased a car we shared together. This arrangement worked very well until yet another family gave us their old car when they purchased a van. When our neighbors, coworkers, and family learn of these stories they are always intrigued.

These practices are not in and of themselves church but they do begin to form and reveal the communal ecclesia in action. The person stuck in debt is not simply given the hope of Jesus but invited into our community as an act of his love. We make room for them in our home, share our resources, and learn to budget together. The result is a greater appreciation for the Way of Jesus and a stronger spirit of love and gratitude in the communal ecclesia. As the person feels more comfortable, their gifts and talents are revealed and bless the community as well.

The autonomous evangelical experience looks at the person with debt and says, “I will pray for you.” The autonomous progressive experience looks at him and says, “Your debt is an injustice!” But the communal ecclesial experience sees the person and their debt, invites them in and bears the burden with together.

 

**As I continue to work out a new imagination for the missional church I am interchanging some language. Especially language around the idea of church/ecclesia/local community. This is an intentional attempt to help break up our old imagination.

Family Rhythms - Family Day

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I am a runner. Not a fast runner nor a good runner, but at least I can say I am a runner. I have mapped out several routes near my house. I have 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11 mile routes that I run depending on how much time I have and how good of condition I am in. In truth, the 2 mile run is no different than the 11 mile run when I am in good shape, other than the fact that the 11 miler is more enjoyable. I am in no shorter breathe after the two miler than I am the 11 miler. My muscles may be a bit more tired but not much. Why is this? A few years ago, while visiting Robin's parents, I decided to run from the place we were staying at in town to their house out in the country. The total distance was about seven miles. I remember how much I was looking forward to the run. We had traveled several days to get there (we live in the DC metro area and they live in KS) and upon arrival we had done a lot of sitting around. The fresh air and running was a treat.

In the beginning I was having a good time. Running, praying and enjoying the scenery; but there was a problem. The run was primarily one long stretch of highway and I was not use to it. I had no landmarkers and no way of knowing where I was at. This through my pace off and I was a bit lost. Somewhere along the line my prayers switched from conversation with God to "PLEASE make this run stop!" I would pray that I could see Robin's parents house as I ran over each hill, but I was continuously disappointed. My muscles were sore and I was tired.

When running my routes at home I have familiar landmarkers. These landmarkers let me know where I am and what I am looking for next. They also help me set my pace. I like to push myself a bit and so my pace changes up depending on where I am at in the run. The routes and landmarkers seem to help my muscle memory know what pace I need to be at.

Family Rhythms This is what family rhythms do in our lives. I am a church planter and church "professional" (not really, but I suppose that's what my job title says). Robin is a full-time nurse. We have three kids and one is an infant. I am not supposing our life is much crazier than anyone else's or that you could not handle ours, but I am proud of how our family does it with relative ease. Breakfast and dinner questions and prayers and our bedtime routine serve as our primary daily rhythms. But we also need weekly, monthly and even seasonal rhythms. These rhythms allow the mental "muscle" memory kick in and keep us enjoying life, rather than panicking and stressing.

Family day One of my favorite days of the week is family day. Family day is our rest day. One of the most important things you can do for your family is rest together. Our Father in Heaven thinks rest is so important that he included it in a list of things that also include "don't murder," "don't steal," and "don't sleep with another's spouse." Seriously. In that same list you will find "don't skip your day of rest." Questions and devotions are nice, but life will quickly dry up if we cannot get away to laugh and play together as a family.

Now when I use the word rest, I am implying what refreshes and renews us. What gives us energy and strength. This is different for different people and for different families. For us this typically means a day at the park, a long walk, rock climbing, a trip to the zoo, or some other simple adventure from spring to fall. It is a bit trickier during the winter but we find other things to do. Play games, watch movies, paint, or go to Chick-fil-a and play on the playground there. The goal of this day is rest and recuperation. I would suggest trying to keep the day the same every week for consistency. Unfortunately for us we have had to switch it up fairly often because of Robin's work schedule.

Oh Yeah! A few weeks ago we headed to the lake to play at the park. As we walked across the street Safari shouts "Oh Yeah! It's family day!!!" We did not tell her but she saw the signs. Mom, dad, Sojo, Kanoa and her were all together and we were heading to the park! She then exclaimed, "This is going to be the best day!"

Why is this?

To be quite honest it is because it is rare that she gets both mom and dad's full and undivided attention for more than an hour at a time. On family day she gets us all day. Yes, it would  be nice (I think) if we could be together all day everyday, but that is not possible. It is also not the way that God designed it. We were created to work and produce. Maybe when they get older we will get the luxury of working and producing with our kids, but this is not the case for now. However, we can AND SHOULD set aside a day for our family to rest together.

At the end of the day, Safari let us know that she loves us "to the moon."

Your children love you. You are their heroes. There is no one more cool in their life. There is no greater influence. Take advantage of it.

Practical guidelines Here are a few other practical things that help make family day a great day for us.

  • We try not to spend money on family day, at least not too much. We do this almost every week. It could get expensive if we spent a money every week.
  • We also keep it simple. The goal is to relax, not stress out. Do not plan too much. Plan one thing and see where that leads you.
  • We do not set a timeline. We are not in a hurry and are not worried when we get back. We are not hurrying from one thing to the next.
  • We let our children set the pace. On walks if they want to stop and check out the flowers, we stop and check out the flowers. If they want to throw rocks into the lake, we throw rocks into the lake. Robin and I will chat while they do it.

The point of family day is to enjoy one another and celebrate life together.

PLEASE drop a line and share what your family does. Give us some ideas.

Family Rhythms - Bedtime

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Bedtime is lots of fun around our house. And I am actually being serious. For the most part our kids enjoy the routine because it is a family affair. When we skip our bedtime routine (yes we do miss it from time to time) for the sake of wanting them to go straight to bed, they have a hard time settling down for bed. But even when they are wound up and going crazy, going through our bedtime routine gets them ready for bed by the end. Having a bedtime routine creates a pattern, like muscle memory, for preparing to sleep. Devotions After putting on our PJ's and brushing our teeth, we jump on the bed and pull out The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is an excellent book that helps us see Jesus in each of the more highlighted stories of the OT, as well as showing us Jesus' purpose on earth through the NT. As with every children's Bible, they leave out the bad parts like Noah getting drunk and passing out naked in his tent, so I make sure to include them. How else can I make a biblical threat on their life? You never know when I may need one of them to cover me up. I cannot wait for the day Safari is sitting in Sunday School and the story of Noah's ark is the topic of conversation. I can see it now. "My daddy said Noah got drunk and passed out naked. He said when that happens to him I cannot make fun of him or he will put a curse on me."

Seriously though, we do add the stories about how each person fails and God's love restores them. The people in the Bible were far from perfect, and our kids will not be any closer . Albeit I hope my son's do not pimp out their wives for their own safety.

Safari has to read first. Bedtime is not fun if we do not allow her to read first. When Robin and I are tired and want to get rolling this can be frustrating, but it is also fun to see how much she remembers about the stories. We have read through The Jesus Storybook Bible several times, so when we tell her what story we are reading she recalls some of the story as she makes up the rest.

Singing After doing our devotion, we sing two songs of their choosing. These typically include Jesus Love Me, This Little Light of Mine (which we scream at the top of our lungs), Open the Eyes of My Heart, and other fun songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and the ABC's. These are fun and often times give us some laughter.

What were you created for? From songs we move to life. We ask each of them, "What were you created for?" In response, they each say "love, joy, adventure, relationships, and to rule by the grace of God."

Love Life is meant to be one filled with love. God make man and woman in His image and was well pleased with them. Love includes putting others before ourselves, something God has done from the beginning. It means seeing others needs and wants as important or more important than our own. It means working together and forgiving one another when we mess up. It means fighting for one another and fighting for justice.

Joy Life is meant to be enjoyed. In the beginning God looked at all creation and proclaimed all was good. Creation is not evil and is not meant to be rejected but enjoyed in the presence and glory of our Father. Life should be filled with fun and laughter. We should not feel guilty that our life is filled with joy and laughter, but through the lens of love we must not live joyful at the expense of others. And we cannot forsake the needs of the others.

Adventure Life should also be an adventure. In the beginning God told Adam and Eve to go subdue all creation. Talk about a wild wild west! Life is still an adventure and mission is similar. Adventure involves risk and willingness to go and do.

Relationship Life is also meant to be lived with others. God saw Adam alone and said it is not good for man to be alone. Life is meant to be lived in relationship and community.

To Rule by the Grace of God And God created us to rule by His grace. As followers of Jesus we are a royal priesthood. We represent the Son, who is now King. This is authority is not an authority of lordship in which we hold it over others, oppressing and holding others back or underneath us. Rather this authority is an authority of servanthood towards others, and over evil and demonic powers.

Every night we plant these seeds of life and truth into the hearts and minds of our children. We do not give these definitions and explanations during the night routine but they are, and will become more, acquainted with them through daily life. We pray they grow with faith and focus in their relationship with the Father and others. This is our way of planting the right seeds.

Who loves you? Feelings of loneliness and unworthiness drive people crazy. One of the biggest issues I see as a pastor is insecurity. At a basic foundational level Robin and I are trying to combat this with our children with a simple question that reminds them of their value. Every night before bed, after asking them what they were created for, we ask them who love them. They each reply, "Daddy, mommy, Safari/Sojo, and Kanoa." Then we ask them who else loves them, to which they reply various people from our community (Unlce Choe Choe, Uncle Andrew, Aunt Katie) and friends from the neighborhood. After their laundry list of people we ask them who loves them most of all, and they shout Jesus! We reply that we will always love them and believe in them, and Jesus does so infinitely more.

Who do you want to pray for? Next we ask them who they want to pray for and why. We typically pray for our neighbor friends, community family, and family. Safari has started praying for her friends and family. Afterwords we say a prayer for Safari and Sojo. At the conclusion of the prayer, Robin and I pray their life's prayerful purpose over them.

Safari's middle name is Soleil, which is French for sun. The sun is what brings life and energy to all creation. So we say, "Safari, we pray you bring life and energy to all creation." Sojo's middle name is Justice. Justice means to restore right living. So we say, "Sojo, we pray you fight for the justice of all people."

And then we say good night. The last thing they typically hear from us before bed is our general vision for their life.

So our bedtime routine goes as follows:

  • Devotion from Jesus Storybook Bible
  • Songs
  • What were you created for?
  • Who loves you? Who else? And who loves you most of all?
  • Who do you want to pray for?
  • Our prayer for them? And our prayerful vision for their life.

Our favorite times to do this is when we have friends over. We do not put our family practices on hold because we have friends and family over. We invite them into our family and therefor into our family practices. Most of the time this goes great! Unfortunately it did not go so great the other night. We had some of our community family over for dinner. When the kids were ready for bed we brought down the Jesus Book for devotions, but Safari got distracted and let's just say bedtime did not go so well. This does not mean we will never do it again. In fact, it means I want to do it again as soon as possible.

The best part of seeing things like this happen is that others get a chance to see that you are not perfect. Just because Robin and I are intentional about most things does not mean most things are easy. But we have a lot of fun doing them. Bedtime is one of the best!

Family Rhythms 3 - Breakfast and Dinner

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I was at a workshop this Saturday and was unable to make Pancake Saturday happen. Guess what Sojo asked for when he woke up on Sunday? Yep. Pancakes! It became Pancake Sunday this weekend. This is once again one of the coolest things about having family rhythms. My son is just a little over two years old, 27 months, and he knows that Saturdays are Pancake day. Since I was not home on Saturday he wanted them on Sunday. He did not ask for them Monday through Friday, but as soon as the weekend came he was ready to make pancakes! My goal with this series is to give a glimpse into our world and how we make it go around. There is nothing brilliant or unusual about our life rhythms and that is what I think makes them so special. We sometimes have the tendency of overlooking simple practices that make life easier. I share these practices and rhythms as examples that you may be able to incorporate or they may spark other possible ideas that work better for you.

We are not the family that has breakfast at the table every morning. We generally eat a bit on the run but each morning we stop and ask our kids two questions. First, what are you excited about today (opportunity)? Second, what do you want to happen today (hope)? Our goal here is two-fold. We want to acknowledge the Father's presence in our day and we want to build an expectation for the day. A person who faces the day with excitement and expectation sees the world through a different lens than a person who views their day in fear or apathy. We pray and thank the Father and Son for our opportunities and ask them to fill our hopes through the presence of the Spirit.

The Father has sent us out as bearers of life. Life consists of love, joy and peace among other things. Love and joy are hidden in apathy and fear diminishes the presence of peace. Excitement and expectation are contagious if authentic.

Our morning prayers gives us a chance to review and prepare for the days events.

Before dinner we share what we are thankful for that day. We do this by asking "what made you happy today?" (blessings). We also ask "Did anything make you sad today? (need for peace). This helps us to hear about their day through their own eyes. Sometimes their answers are amazing and sometimes they are seriously crazy, but it is still fun all the same. Afterwards we give thanks to the Father for the blessings and ask Jesus to give us peace in the difficulties.

In raising Kingdom focused men and women, we want our children to know that all blessings and opportunities flow from their Father in Heaven and that Jesus, their Messiah and King, focus and source of peace in difficult times.

Our dinner prayer helps us reflect and debrief on the days events.

Parenting 15 - Never, Ever Ever, etc.

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We live in one of the greatest neighborhoods a family could ask for. There are a lot of kids around and we have a lot of fun. The kids buzz around our house like bees do a bee hive. One Saturday we were cleaning the house in preparation for a party later that night when the neighborhood kids started circling our house wanting to play. We had our windows open because it was a nice day and the kids gathered outside asking Safari and Sojo to come out to play. They quickly ran to put on their shoes and took off outside. When Robin came downstairs she asked where Safari and Sojo were going, to which I replied "Uhm....outside."

This quickly drew an irritated Robin who told me she had already told them they could not go outside at the moment. I could not have disagreed more. The temperature was in the 70's in the middle of winter! All the other kids were outside and there was a great time to be had for sure. Unfortunately Robin and I had to stay inside cleaning and for some reason Robin decided the other neighborhood parents could not watch our kids that day. This may seem like a normal and responsible parents response except for that the parents of our neighborhood ALWAYS share responsibility of watching one another's kids. It is quite normal for us to watch the other kids while their parents are inside cleaning, cooking dinner and running errands.

Showtime After a short but adamant disagreement between the two of us, Robin went out to get the kids. She was more upset coming back in than she was going out. Safari was crying and screaming at her, and Sojo was whining. To say the least it was pure chaos. Safari explained how much she disliked Robin and begged me to let her go outside.

It was above 70 degrees in the middle of winter, the kids had not been outside in a while, and we had to clean the house! Why in the world could they not go outside!?! This was the perfect storm for a showdown between Robin and I. Now instead of cleaning and enjoying this beautiful day (in the 70's with windows open thinking it was spring), we are living in PURE and UTTER chaos. This was showtime!

Safari comes running to me with her "I'm daddy's little girl" "Daddy please rescue me" act, telling me how mean mommy is and begging me to let her go outside. Everything in me knew this was logical! So what did I do?

Let me share another story before sharing the answer. Rather than being a special occasion, this story happens about once a week. I wake up every morning before sunrise to ensure I have time to pray and study before the kids wake up. Generally about the time the kids wake up I am in the middle of writing or responding to emails or blogs (right now Sojo is watching Diego while I type this).

Not so sweet daddy The other day Safari was sitting at the table with me while I was writing a blog on how to be a good parents. Sojo had been asking me for breakfast and Safari needed to get ready for gymnastics, so I was trying to hurry and finish the blog. The pressure to get ready and Sojo's begging for food was causing me to lose focus, but I "just had to" get this blog finished (as if the world would have stopped if I did not). Safari turns to me and asks, "Hey sweet daddy, what are we going to do today?" The loving father that I am turned to her and said, "I don't know Safari but do you know how to not talk so much. Can't you see dad is trying to work."

Yep. She calls me sweet daddy and I tell her to shut up. All while writing a blog about how to be a good parent.

This was the perfect time for Robin to tell me to shut up. And she had every right to do so. So what do you think she did?

Seriously! Never, ever ever, etc. Never, ever ever, ever ever ever, ever ever ever EVER side against your spouse in front of your children. As far as your children are concerned you are an unbreakable, inseparable team. Unless your spouse has a meltdown and starts chasing your child with a bat or something worse. Assuming your husband or wife is sane, never challenge their decisions in front of your children. The worst thing you can do is show your children they can put the two of you against one another.

How to live happily ever after Instead of siding with Safari, I sat her in timeout for the way she talked to her mom. Later Robin and I had a conversation about the kids playing outside. The reality was that Robin was tired. She is a nurse and had worked three overnight shifts in a row. When Robin gets tired she can be silly. She knows this and tries to stay cautious of it, but she is not perfect.

Instead of telling me to shut up Robin took Safari away and told her not to bother me while I was working. As soon as I finished the  blog, Robin took me to my room and told me I needed to chill out. Then she made me go tell Safari sorry. I need to learn and am learning not to work in front of the kids as I hate being interrupted while working.

The reality is mom and dad are not always going to agree. Sometime we have to agree to disagree. Robin and I typically go with who said what first. In the event of the kids playing outside, Robin said they could not before I said they could. So I sided with her.

There will be other times when we are stressed, tired or in a funky mood and just make a bad decision. In the case of me rudely asking Safari if she had to talk so much, Robin deciphered that I needed Safari to leave me alone. So she took Safari away and then corrected me at a later time.

The important thing is that your children cannot divide the two of you. There is a strong possibility that one of you is weaker willed than the other, meaning you give in a lot easier. The kids will soon discover this if you are not careful. It was my mom in my home growing up. I was the punk child who caused his mom and dad to argue because I knew how to put them against one another. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN in your home!!

 

Family Rhythms 2 - Pancake Saturday

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It amazes me that my children, who do not yet understand the Sunday to Saturday calendar, wake up just about every Saturday knowing that it is pancake day. I am not sure how they know this but they almost always get it right. I start our journey through life rhythms with pancake day because this may be the smallest, most insignificant of our rhythms but it is also one Safari and Sojo remember almost every week. Pancake day happens once a week on Saturday. This means seven days go by until the next pancake day. In the life of a child that seems like eternity. So many things happen in the process of a week and most children forget what happened three days ago. So why do my kids remember pancake day? I believe this goes to show the importance of life rhythms.

We get right to work once Safari and Sojo wake up on Saturdays. When Robin is not working we let her sleep in to get a break from work and taking care of the kids. This is a time for them to help daddy do something nice for mommy. Sometimes we make blueberry pancakes, sometimes chocolate, and sometimes banana pancakes. When we make banana pancakes we play Jack Johnson in the background.

Everyone gets to play We seriously have a routine of how this goes. I get the pancake mix, Sojo gets the milk and eggs, I measure out the mix and milk, Safari cracks the egg, I give it a quick stir, Safari does the main mixing, and Sojo tosses in the blueberries. While I am making the pancakes they sneak licks with their fingers. Once the pancakes are finished we eagerly await the arrival of mommy. While we are waiting we drink coffee and talk about what we are going to do that day. And sometimes we bring mommy breakfast in bed. The kids have fun because they get to participate. We make a good mess that we clean up most of the time. If I'm honest though, this sometimes becomes mommy's job but not always.

Pancake Saturday is a simple fun way for me to hang out with the kids. It was honestly hard for me to let the kids help at first. Pancake Saturday use to be breakfast in bed for Robin Saturday. It use to be a time when I would let her know how much I appreciate her. When we had kids I wanted to do it for the whole family. I would alternate the menu and enjoy the time alone praising the Father for my family, but then these little critters started getting in the way. Breakfast in bed Saturday turned into battleground Saturday as I kept getting frustrated with Safari for getting in my way. Then one day while making pancakes I gave in and ler her help. I discovered pancakes were an easy thing for them to help me with, thus pancake Saturday was born.

Honor Mommy Saturday The most significant thing about pancake Saturday though, is that we still get to bless mommy! They get to make a mess and learn to cook, which makes them proud, and we get to bless mom. I want my kids to know the fun and joy of blessing mom. While we are hard at work we talk about how much we love mom and the funny or nice things she did for us that week. Maybe they remember pancake Saturday so often because it really is honor mommy Saturday and we all love our mommy.

Breakfast Sunday through Friday is normal but pancake Saturday is a special rhythm in our lives. Saturday morning is a time to let mom know how much we appreciate all she does, a time for the kids to make a mess with dad, and a time for dad to bless his family. It is the perfect way to start the weekend.

Family Rhythms - Intro

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Speaking of rhythms. My blogging rhythm got off a bit by not blogging last Thursday or Friday. I thought about including this series of Family Rhythms into parenting series but decided to separate them so I did not have Parenting 541 - Such and Such. So instead of making this Parenting 15 - Pancake Saurday, it is the first of Family Rhythms. I will finish the Parenting series this week with a few other thoughts and a recap. For today let's start thinking about family rhythms. I want to focus on rhythms of how our family operates because some people look into our life and get a bit tired. I would never suggest anyone try to take on our lifestyle all at once. I run somewhat often but would never set out to run a marathon without proper training. This training would include an incremental running schedule that would increase in mileage and difficulty as I go. Running a marathon versus running a few miles is a capacity issue. The more I run and the harder I run the further and faster I can run (increased capacity), but if I increase to quickly my body will break down and injury comes.

Robin and I have instituted rhythms into our lives for three reasons. God has designed it so that we work from rest, rather than resting from work. In order for our family to work most effectively, we first need to have times to rest and energize. We also have life rhythms to increase our capacity. We have seasons of more active life and seasons of more restful life. Finally, we have rhythms that serve as landmarks to our days, weeks and months. Whether you are crazy busy or live a very relaxed life, life rhythms will keep you in sync. Without them you can easily drift and when the winds of life pick up you may find your family scattered all over the map. Robin and I seek to live a very intentional life for the sake of the Father and His Kingdom. In order to do this effectively we need both a greater capacity and connecting points.

Where is the 4-mile marker? A few years ago I did my first triathlon. After swimming a mile and biking 24 miles, I set out to conquer the 6 mile run. I prepared myself for a hard and grueling finish but it was turning out to be pretty easy. The course had half-mile markers and at each mile marker there was water and energy gels to keep you going. But then for some reason they did not have a 1/2 mile markers or a station at the 4-mile marker. Miles 3-5 were the longest miles of my life. I had a bit of a mental breakdown and the run all of a sudden became the worst run of my life. I almost gave up. The 1/2 mile-markers and stations served has landmarks and refreshers. These landmarks helped me stay mentally focused and the refreshers helped me fight through the pain. When the 4-mile marker went missing my whole mental game was lost.

Life rhythms are the mile markers to our daily, weekly and monthly schedules. When things get difficult we can look to these landmarks to keep us moving forward. They refresh us and energize us to go back out. They keep our family close and strong. Life rhythms can and should be daily, weekly, monthly and seasonally. We have daily prayer and dinner time, nightly devotion, Tuesday night dinner outing, Saturday morning pancakes, etc. Spring to Fall time tends to be more active for us while winter slows down. All of these are done with some continuity and rhythm to make life easier for us.

Before getting into some specific in the days to come, I would love to learn from you and your family rhythms.

Parenting 14 - Moments of Truth

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You know that moment when your child has had too much sugar and then asks for another cookie? These are edge of your seat/nail biting moments. You know they will go sugar crazy if you give them one, but they will completely lose control and go into fitting rage if you say no. So you say.....? These are moments of truth. Far too many parents will cop out here by saying "they are all gone." You have just copped out by telling your child a lie. In the moment it is WAY easier to tell a lie than it is to deal with the wrath that follows the truth. I understand this but I am  here to tell you that it is one of the worst things you can do.

No Short Cuts There are no short cuts to parenting. Parenting is one of the greatest joys of life, but it is always a tremendous responsibility. Responsibility always carries a bit of difficulty. These moments of truth come up way more often than we may think and they will shape both the behavior of our children and our relationship with them.

We rob our child of a great teaching moment when we tell a lie to avoid telling them no. Kids must learn to accept no for an answer. This lesson is inevitable. The sooner they learn the better. Learning to accept no will help them follow directions and teach them how to deal with rejection. If you never tell your child no, how will they learn to hear it from others?

Is he serious? AND here is something you may never have thought as valuable. How will they learn to negotiate if you never tell never tell them no? Seriously. If Safari or Sojo can give me good sound reason as to why the answer should be yes instead of no, then I give in and they get what they want. This is an invaluable tool as they get older. This does not mean I always give in. In fact, I rarely give in. But I always try to let them be heard. And at times I give in. Learning to negotiate and respectfully challenging a no is a GREAT tool for life. How many great inventions and organizations have been started after someone being told no?

Little Me's Many parents pray and hope our children will learn to imitate the good and forget the weaknesses  in them. That my friends is wishful thinking. Our children are learning how life works and you are their first and greatest teacher, whether good or bad. I should point out this is not always the case, but is it MOST often the case. If you expect the truth from your children, then give them the truth.

Trustworthy Insight It is my goal that my children trust me. I do not want them to trust me simply for the sake of trusting me though. Yes I want them to respect me. Yes I want them to honor me. But I also want to help them make good decisions. I want them to listen to me when I tell them I do not think something is a good idea. And I want to them to listen to my advice when they are in a difficult situation. I never want them to feel I am attempting to manipulate them. I do not want them to think I have an ulterior motive. I want them to believe me when I tell them they are stepping into a dangerous situation. I want them to know that easy or difficult I have always told them the truth. My hope is that when they are older and I have to tell them something they do not want to hear, they will know I have always be a constant voice of truth.

Seeds of truth for the future Little moments and situations are like seeds that take root in a persons mind. When we go to the doctor for shots and Safari asks me if the shot is going to hurt, I tell her the truth. Yes it will hurt but only for a few seconds and then the pain will leave. Her typical response to getting the shot goes something like this, "Ooh that hurts but now it's all gone." This experience acts as a seed in two ways. It tells her that pain is temporary and that her daddy knew what he was talking about. When a boy rejects her and I tell her the pain will leave, the roots that have taken hold from this experience (along with other supportive experiences) will tell her to trust my words. The sooner these seeds are planted the stronger roots your child will have for the future.

If you choose to lie... At what point will you choose to say no? If you choose to lie in order to escape the wrath of a 2-yr-old or 4-yr-old, wait until they are 15 or 16. Not only are the fits they throw more embarrassing; they will ASLO be more damaging to themselves, your family, and their futures. TOO many teens damage their future with acts of rebellion because they are not accustom to dealing with 'NO'. They will not respect you and will begin to think of you as an enemy. Your friends and pastors will lie to you and tell you it is not your fault and sympathize with you. This sympathy will help you feel better BUT it will not help your rebellious son or daughter. I do not say this to be mean or arrogant, but to help you avoid this issue. As a youth pastor I saw this WAY too much.

The truth is not always easy but it will set you free from later issues :)

Parenting 13 - Social Experiment

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One of the biggest fears and frustrations parents have is taking their children out in public. One wrong word (the word NO) can send a child into a raging fit, and if a child gets bored who knows what he or she is capable of. Misbehaving children can draw glares from some people, causing parents to feel as though are bad parents. To make matters worse these "some people" feel as though the rest of the world needs to know they sat next to a misbehaving child on a plane or in a restaurant by updating their Facebook status. These fears keep parents from going out and keep kids from learning how to behave in public.

First a word for those "some people," with the most loving and gracious heart can I please ask you to shut up? Thanks. Many worn out, tired and stressed parents will be most grateful for your patience and gracious attitudes towards them and their children. PLEASE remember you were once a child, and you STILL have your own mishaps as an adult.

A quick word for parents, honestly not as many people are glaring at you as you think. Many are sympathizing with you, remembering the days they raised their own children. Others find it humorous or sad. And others just love kids.

With this being said, let's figure out a way to teach our children how to behave in public (social space).

Community and Social Space I would first suggest that children being raised in community will adjust to social spaces more quickly. If you have not caught my drift yet, doing life in community has great benefits to raising children. In community our children learn to relax in the presence of others, wait their turn to talk and not interrupt others, and how to interact in conversation. These are just a few benefits that will help them adjust to a social space. You do not want your child screaming at you for attention while you are speaking with someone else. You also do not want your child to cause a scene just to gain attention either.

Our Social Experiment Living in community and doing life with people is great for learning, but most of our life together community is done in one another's houses and playgrounds. So in order to train our kids how to behave in social space we need to do something in public.

Robin and I have found a family friendly restaurant that does half-priced burgers on Tuesday nights. This is not a Chick-Fil-A that is actually built for kids, but a restaurant. If you need to begin with a more child-friendly place that is fine, but sending them off to play in the playground will not do the trick in the long run. We want our kids to be in a place where they will need to sit still, be quiet and have to wait for their food. However, we also do not want to go somewhere that is not kid friendly. The place Robin and I take our kids has crown and paper for them to color and draw on.

Next to the restaurant is a frozen-yogurt place. So after half-priced burgers we go to Josie's for desert. If Safari and Sojo did well, they will get receive desert. If not, they get to sit and watch us eat desert. The other week Sojo would not sit still in the booth and kept trying to get down and run around. When we corrected him, he threw a fit. Fortunately the restaurant is family friendly and we are getting to know the staff because we go every week. So they were gracious with us and we were thankful. When we got to Josie's and he realized he did not get desert he threw an even bigger fit. He actually fell down on the ground and and started kicking!

Thank You Well...I did what any good parent would do and started laughing and taking pictures of him.

A lady who overheard us telling another about our routine and social implementation experiment came and told us how appreciative she was of our parenting in this situation. She was a teacher and explained that most parents today believe it is the teachers responsibility to teach the kids to behave properly. She literally said thank you for not rewarding Sojo's bad behavior!

Robin, Safari and I got our frozen yogurt and began eating. In just a few minutes, after realizing he was not going to get his, Sojo decided it was time to start behaving properly. He was being funny, smiling and joking around with us. And guess what? He still did not receive his desert! As we were leaving he asked us to take his picture which you have seen above. AND....guess who behaved well the next week? Both did.

There are many family friendly restaurants you can choose from. I suggest finding one and sticking with it. This will help you get to know the staff of the restaurant which makes it easier when they do throw fits. You can typically find restaurants where kids eat free on certain nights making it more affordable as well.

The point here is to give them a somewhat controlled environment so they can begin learning how to behave in social spaces. They will begin to learn only when you begin training. We also invite other families to come along with us to make it more fun for the family. So you are welcome to join us if you are ever in the area.

Parenting 12 - Reward the right behavior

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As we were walking up the stairs to the the viewing area at the gym, Sojo started crying because I would not place him on my shoulders and take him up the stairs (because I was carrying Kanoa and a diaper bag). A friend and mother of another child in gymnastics let me know she thought he needed help up the stairs, but I explained that he was throwing a fit because I would not put him on my shoulders. I could tell she was a bit concerned for him but I continued the conversation in asking how her week was going. After a couple minutes of conversation Sojo slings his arms around exclaiming "daddy!" It was the kind of cute and loving hug I mom's and dad's receive from young children when they return home from work. My friend was completely amazed. "Oh my goodness, I can't believe that worked!" She exclaimed. "I think I just witnessed good parenting." She went on. "I felt so bad for him. I would have given in. Oh no, that's what I always do. Wow. I have been doing it wrong for 16 years! I always give him." She continued. "Do you think I have messed up?"

At this point I interjected and assured her there were many great things she is doing as a mom and parent. She has a HUGE heart for children and kids. But it was as though she had the biggest epiphany of her life. I'm sure it was not but it was fun and a bit funny to experience with her.

If I would have given in to Sojo's cries to be carried, I would have told him that I will give in whenever he cries or throws a fit. I went on to explain that Robin and I choose not to reward bad behavior, and that it is never too late to start. The difficulty in starting later though is that you have to break the habit of giving into your child AND break their conditioning of receiving whatever they want. Often times when a parent tries to turn the tide at a later point in parenting (especially in adolescence), the child will throw bigger fits and start more severe fights in the home in an attempt to restore their pre-conditioned order of things. You MUST stand your ground though. The longer you wait the worse it will get.

It is not always easy to do this, especially if your child's friends are use to getting what they want (this happens a lot) or if your friends or family members give your child whatever they want.

Last spring my mom while my mom was visiting we went out on a day trip. On the way to the Shennandoah Valley Safari and Sojo were arguing and fighting, so on the way home we told them that if they were good they could get a cookie (yes, we do bribe). Sojo did a great job but Safari did not. When we brought out the cookies after the meal, we gave one to Sojo and I ate the one designated for Safari. My sweet mother was furious. She explained that we need to give her a cookie and as I stood my ground she decided to leave the restaurant and get some fresh air. Mom and I made up later, but Safari did not receive her cookie. The reward was for good behavior, not bad.

It is not fun making my mom mad and it's not fun watching my kids throw fits or yell at us; but we have a job of teaching our kids how to behave. And rewarding bad behavior is a big road block to this task. Ask parents of teenagers who made the mistake earlier in parenting. Parenting kids who are use to getting everything they want or being rewarded for their bad behavior are tremendously difficult to parent during the adolescent years.

Robin and I have started reward systems for good behaviors. If Sojo is good during gymnastics, he gets fruit snacks. If they behave throughout the day, they get a desert/snack in the evening. As they continue to grow we will come up with new and different reward systems to reward the behavior we would like to see in them. My favorite time to reward them is when they have know idea it is coming. From time to time I will take them to Target and let them pick out a toy or something they would like. They typically ask me if it is for someone else. "Is it someone's birthday?" they ask. Other times I will take them out for one on one dad time to a playground or somewhere they find to be fun. My favorite part is when I get to explain how proud I have been of their actions or behavior. I then thank them for who they are becoming and how these actions promote Jesus and His Way of life.

In leadership, we celebrate the things we want to see in our organizations. The same should be in our families. Celebrate the right things. Reward right behavior. And ignore or discipline wrong behavior.