by Dan Edgerly
As I prepared for this opportunity to share with you on a blog, my thoughts led to my own faith journey. In an effort to “jump start” my own spiritual life, a number of years ago, I attended a retreat designed for adults in youth ministry to help me develop spiritual practices. At the outset, I was looking for a quick fix to an enduring problem. A student had recently asked me a simple but profound question, “How is it with your soul?”. I had no real answer to her inquiry. I wanted to find an answer to that question. Then somewhere in the stillness of a morning walk on retreat, God showed up.
That morning I read from the Gospel of John where Jesus called his first disciples. John was sitting by the side of the road with a couple of his disciples when Jesus passed by. John saw Jesus coming and pointed out to his disciples, “Look the Lamb of God!” The disciples turned and immediately followed Jesus. During that walk, I realized that I was overwhelmed by the exhaustion of pointing to Jesus. The problem was, unlike John, I would not have been able to recognize Jesus if he passed by. I had gotten so busy trying to point Jesus out to others that I became disconnected from Jesus who longed to be in relationship with me. The longing of my heart was to know Christ, yet the work of my life was to keep up my outward appearances for others while trying to earn the love of God.
That weekend was a turning point in my spiritual journey. I realized that in order to be effective in the ministry to which God had called me to, I needed to be in authentic relationship with Jesus. For me, renewing my relationship with Jesus began with accepting God’s grace and realizing that God loved me for who I was, not for what I did. My relationship with Christ was freed from the burden of an achievement-oriented faith, and I was able to see myself through Jesus’ eyes: a beloved child of God. I needed to fall in love with Christ and connect with him through the pursuit of a holy life. I also needed to realize that this change would not be a quick fix. It needed to be long-term transformation in the way I viewed my spiritual life. My own soul was burned out and could not be kept ablaze with anything but the life of Christ.
Throughout the coming months and years, may we together as a community of faith asked one another, “How is it with your soul?”
As you’ve probably heard by now, we’re changing our worship times this summer. Just to make sure you know, they will be as follows from June through August:
9:00 AM Sanctuary Blended (Promise) service
Auburn Hall Contemporary service
11:00 AM Sanctuary Contemporary service
Auburn Hall Traditional communion service
Did you ever wonder how we make these kinds of decisions? Here’s how this one went.
It began with a concern for the 8:00 traditional service. We are very much committed to this service—not just preserving it, but growing it. But we came to realize that the early hour was a major roadblock to growth. At the same time, we’ve also been concerned that the 11:15 service was starting and ending too late in the day.
Those concerns, along with the success of the simultaneous services at 9:30, led our worship planning team to a possible solution: move the traditional service to run in Auburn Hall simultaneously with the sanctuary contemporary service, and simplify worship hours to 9 and 11.
I met briefly with a group from the 8:00 service, as well as some later discussions with individuals, to ask for their input and advice. The preponderance of opinion was that building the service is a priority, and the move to 11:00 is a welcome one, especially for some who have trouble getting up and out for 8:00. There were others who preferred the 8:00 time, and there was some concern about losing the pipe organ. But our organist Jamie Emerson, while sad to lose the pipe organ for that service, loves the new piano in Auburn Hall, and agreed that the move made sense.
Then we checked with Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, and some 9:30 and 11:15 worshippers, who were all on board. Finally, we discussed it with Session, who agreed with the move.
I’ve left out a lot of thinking and conversation and prayer, but in general that’s how this happened. Let’s now see what the Lord will do with it!
by Karen Corcoran
Sunday, May 6th, Steve and I will celebrate our 23rd Wedding anniversary. I remember the day Steve asked me to marry him. Along with all of the typical memories you’d think I would have of that day and of Steve, I also have one very special memory and it is of my mother and father-in-law.
Steve’s mom, upon hearing the news of our engagement, immediately took my face into her hands, one hand on either side of my face, and looking into my eyes, told me how pleased she was. My father in law quickly followed with an embracing and welcoming hug. That day, they welcomed me into their family, as one of their own.
Just a few weeks ago, I recalled my memory above with Steve’s parents, sharing with them how much it meant to me that they welcomed me into their family as if I was their very own daughter and not simply a daughter-in-law.
We were sitting at Bob Evans in Westlake having just returned from our visit to my father in law’s pulmonary doctor at Metro. My father-in-law had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis four years earlier. At this doctor’s appointment we found out the disease was now at the stage where we needed to begin to think about end of life care – to begin to accept the fact that dad was nearing the end stages of his disease.
That visit was really hard. But, I love how God was there and how God has been there each day and every step of the way since that office visit. Beginning with that lunch at Bob Evans, God has allowed me to share openly with my father and mother-in-law and share with them the joy that has been mine by their accepting me into their family as like their very own daughter. That day, the doctor told us that dad should no longer be driving. At lunch, we three discussed the very hard reality of what this looked like. Dad shared how much he did not want to be a burden, how he didn’t want to be a nuisance to his family and how difficult it was to realize that he would now need to rely on his children to help him navigate this stage of life.
As I looked at my father-in-law and saw how painful and how sad this was for him, I quickly shared with him how this was anything but being a nuisance, how we his children loved him dearly and how we have great joy in being able to be there for him and for mom. The Lord brought to mind “honor your father and your mother”. I explained we delight in honoring him, by being there for him and by doing so, we love our Lord at the same time.
It’s hard, the ups and downs of being with a parent as they near the end of this life. But, I’ve thought a ton about what it means to honor father and mother…and I think there is some wonderful time ahead of me to honor my father-in-law in this season of life. I can be there with him, through the uncertainties, the fears, the pains, the sorrow, the joys, the memories of moving from this earthly life to the eternal life Jesus has in store for each of us who loves him. I’m delighting in this time, not knowing what it holds, but knowing that I have an abundance of opportunities to love and to honor my father-in-law as he lives out his final days.
It’s really common in Christian circles to hear about men being the “spiritual leaders of their homes.” It’s a principle clearly taught (see for example, Ephesians 5:22-6:4 or Colossians 3:18-21) and exemplified in the Bible. But is it really that important, and what should a dad do to be the spiritual leader of his home?
When I was in seminary, I took a group of Christian high school teens on a memorable wilderness trip in the Colorado Rockies. We would hike for a couple hours, then stop and gather around while one of the teenagers told his/her story for about an hour. There was no agenda—they just talked about how they saw their lives, what was important to them, their hopes and fears and dreams—that sort of thing. There were 13 kids, and every one of the 13 spent considerable time talking about their relationship with Dad, sometimes as a positive influence, sometimes not. Surprisingly Mom was never mentioned, not even once. From this I realized that what dads do and say is carefully scrutinized by their older kids, and has a huge impact on their lives. (Not to say that Mom is unimportant—we all know better—but who knew about the Dad thing?)
So now that I’ve turned up the heat on fathers, what should we do?
I think this depends on who your kids are—their personalities, stage of development, individual needs, etc.—and on who you are as a person. My experience in management tells me that you don’t manage everyone the same. You have to tailor your style to the personality of the individual (how experienced and skillful are they? what kind of communication do they receive best? what motivates them? what are their gifts and passions?) and to the situation (is it a crisis or turnaround? growing quickly? stable business? looking for creativity or consistency or what?). In much the same way, parents need to tailor their parenting to the individuality of their child, to their situation or stage of life, and to who you are as a parent.
So having said “it depends,” I want to suggest some easy steps for fathers that I’ve found significant in lots of different families and situations:
- Lead the family to church. When Sunday morning comes, don’t let Mom be the one who is the driving force to get everyone up and out. Don’t make it a forced military march (cheerfulness counts), but you be the one who makes it clear that this is important to you and therefore to your family. Be consistent with this. Don’t make the decision each week whether you’ll go or stay home. Make the decision today that you go to church on Sundays, and then follow through each week.
- Let them see you pray. Take the initiative to be the one to lead in prayer before meals, as you begin family trips, at bedtime, etc. The picture of a man lifting his family in prayer before the Lord is a powerful statement of faith in God and love for your family. Don’t worry if you’re not good at praying out loud. The genuineness of your love for your family far outweighs your lack of skill in praying. Sometimes your fumbling words give them courage to try it themselves.
- Tell them your story. Each of us has his own story (or usually many stories) of how I came to know Christ, what He has done for me, and how He has made a difference in my life. You know this: stories are fascinating. Everyone loves a good story, especially when it’s about someone important to us. Your kids may sit in rapt attention, or they may roll their eyes at your stories, but I guarantee they’re listening. And remembering. And it’s changing who they become.
Those are just three easy steps that I’ve used to be the spiritual leader of my home. There’s more to it, sure, but these are a great beginning.
What about you? What ways have you found to spiritually lead your family? Leave a comment so we can all know about it.
Shout it out, go ahead!!! Do you remember those summer nights as a kid when you played outside until dark with the neighborhood gang? What about making tree forts in the woods behind your house? I can remember the days when I left home on my bike early in the morning and didn’t return until dinner time: when my mom would ring the family bell. What did we do all day? We played! We were outside! We were creating, experimenting, and having a blast with the outside world God provided us. During that play we were also learning (although we didn’t know it). We were using our senses (hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, seeing) to learn about and have respect for nature. We were becoming equipped to be better stewards of all of God’s creation.
I believe that many children today are being deprived of true outdoor leisure play; play that is not organized or structured such as sports teams and playgrounds. They are not being given the chance to learn and appreciate nature like we did. Children may be able to tell you all about the Rain Forest, erosion, plants and animals but do they experience sitting in fields listening to the wind, watching the birds, smelling the wild flowers. Do they experience building a tree house, making mud pies, or wading in a creek? Are children fearful of insects or bugs, or do they appreciate their existence? Have children watched and participated in the stages of a plant’s life, or have they just read about it in a book?
We need to understand that time in nature is NOT just leisure time. It is essential to our children’s health and growth: both academically and physically. Studies have shown the positive effects on the physical and psychological well-being of children who are given regular unstructured time outdoors: improved concentration, observation, creativity and problem solving. Children have an increased imagination and sense of wonder. Grades in school improve, along with a higher self confidence, and an increased ability to cooperate with others.
Parents, think about this. Look over your calendar and see what is taking up your child’s free time. Is it structure or unstructured outdoor play? I’m sure there are many of us who need to re-evaluate our calendars. Let’s join together and give our children a better balance between organized activities, the pace of our children’s lives, and their experience with nature.
So, what do ya say? Wanna go outside and play?