The past month has been a bit of a blur. We just returned from the Carpathian Mountains in Western Ukraine. If your vehicles don’t break down, it’s supposed to take around 10 hours. It took us 2 days, but we (sans our truck) arrived safely for a 4-day leaders retreat with friends from Belarus and Ukraine. It was a neat time for friendships to form, deepen, and be encouraged in Christ in this pristine setting!
Our theme was culture creation – I look forward to further teaching and consideration in this area in missional community, it’s fascinating and I believe a significant part of our calling as believers in every age. So much of Christendom thinks it’s enough to condemn or criticize the culture of the day – yet that rarely works or has any effect. In fact, it can do just the opposite in helping to fuel the incubated distance the Church has with the culture in the first place. The Kingdom of God is here, Jesus came, rose and has empowered us towards our God given design to fill the earth with reflections of how the world should be in Christ.
“The only way to change culture is to make more of it.” Andy Crouch
Speaking of culture and creating space inside of it for Christ, we returned to a rock concert outreach outside at Lighthouse Cafe park area. Two bands, one from Germany and another from Ukraine in a very loud, and professional stage setup. I appreciated the way in which the lead singer shared natural snippets of testimony, and encouragement for the youth to look to Jesus, turn away from destructive things which this culture knows very well. I think some good seeds were sown. We had some mom’s and neighbors express gratitude for hosting the event – I think folks are embracing some of the hope and love that we’re able to collectively bring as believers in our town. We’ve started including folks from our town to our Lighthouse staff meeting who have ideas for various kinds of family events – coming alongside and helping others, not just doing our own thing is something I want to see us do more of that we can become a greater asset as a growing missional community, in our community.
I read somewhere a good measure of your missional impact in a community is whether your ministry could disappear in the night, if anyone outside your group would notice, or even care? May we all become the kind of culturally relevant citizens, wherever we are around the globe that are essential to continued, and improving human flourishing, in this life and the next!
Books of the Month!
A Public Faith – Miroslav Volf
Culture Making – Andy Crouch
Gift of Being Yourself – David Benner
Tomorrow, I’ll race to Kiev to pick up our friend and contact with World Challenge, Mark who will spend a few days with us. We’ll have another Widows outreach, as well as the regular weekly Children’s outreach. Then, later this week we receive a team from Texas of professional seamstresses! Unfortunately, the sewing machines and material from the US is still in customs.. hoping it clears in time for our workshops – but we have a backup plan. Would you pray for both the materials to get released, but also the team, and the many workshops, children, widows, mom’s.. we will be in 3 Cities over the course of the week. Sewing seeds, trusting the Lord of the harvest to increase and the love of Jesus to be experienced. Pray for strength, health, favor – and for our cars, it feels like every week something is breaking from these awful roads.
I almost forgot, we ship off Brent and Tucker this week too! Brent will be gone for 4 months, Tucker for 3. Please pray for their safety, they will be driving huge farm equipment all summer, and they don’t exactly have a lot of practice driving much of anything besides our van.. at the end of the summer they will both have one shot to fly down to Texas for getting final documents on their permanent licenses.
Our family will be flying over to Canada, visiting the US July 25-August 25. One month. We are lifting up the itinerary to the Lord – honestly I have no time to try and make something happen, so trusting the Lord is the only option – a good option! We do want to make it out to Seattle to visit Jan and the Mir family at Lake Samm. As well, we are hoping to visit Texas, swinging down to visit friends in Longview, Dallas, and Austin. Our house has been on the market now for 6 months. We have had some good interest and one offer, but it wasn’t enough. We have now another offer this week, it’s very close, and do ask that you pray with us too! It has been a stretching time for us this year trying to get this Texas house sold and maintain all our Ukrainian expenses and world.
So many things I want to write, but Fuller has me wiped of extra energy. I read on average 3-4 books per month, along with many required articles each week, and writing assignments. In two weeks I have my final paper due for this semester on Missional Engagement in Contemporary Culture – it’s been a really diverse and interesting season of study – To make things increasingly difficult, I tend to get lost in side studies of interest during my course.
A Parenting Rant for Jesus.
Our family is studying all kinds of things lately as well, it’s been really fun to listen to what everyone is reading – from history of Buddism, to philosophy, biographies… Deb’s dream of our family being a learning community is coming to life! I really encourage you parents to let your kids explore and not overly control their learning process. I see many Christian parents especially think that you need to feed your kids just the Bible, and fear if you don’t fill them with enough ‘facts’ or ‘truth’ they will believe whacky things and not follow Jesus. We have found just the opposite. We’ve never required bible reading, prayer or other Christian practices. Until they are old enough, they aren’t Jesus followers, so let them awaken to who they are, and allow the Holy Spirit to do what He does best.
Love your kids, love Jesus, and relax.
The goal is, I think, to form hungry learners. Jesus is truth because He is, not because we parent enough Christian stuff. Don’t be afraid to let your kids study everything, and anything that interests them in an effort to raise intellectually honest, and robust thinking believers. This world needs apologists, loving and mature communicators of the faith that saves. If they are just parroting verses or hold to your own views strictly, they won’t discover who they are, and their faith will not be their own – it will invariably come crashing down.
Salvation is Jesus, not a specific set of beliefs. Trust in Jesus, know Jesus yourself, and love your kids into the Kingdom setting the example before them as a humble, seeking, hungry believer. So far, our ‘hands-off’ approach, which flies in the face of almost all western Christian approaches I realize, is really producing a genuine hunger for spiritual things in our kids. Our oldest that have left (early 20’s) continue to deepen in faith. They wrestle with their faith of course, but not out of panic but as something they’ve already been allowed to experience as a natural part of living faith.
I walked through one of my kids rooms today and noticed, amidst a very messy room, CS Lewis by their bed. It hit me, we’re doing it! Go into another room and someone is reading some crazy eastern philosopher, and another the biography of George Muller. Deb has pushed me personally to study and think outside of the narrow fundamental Christian box that we’ve both been exposed to. None of us come from perfect or even close to perfect Christian streams. We have so much to learn from history and those that have gone before us.
Once you let go of a defensive posture in your own personal theology, and you hold things loosely – you realize your value is not in your beliefs, but rather intrinsic in the heart of God. This allows us to be wrong, without dismantling the foundations of our faith. I can be wrong about so many things, and probably am, but I’m not wrong in the essential love of Jesus over my life. Our kids feel this peace, rest, and if given the freedom to question on their own level, will find stride in their personal journey, they will make it their own.
Look for those intentional spirit led moments where you can bring God’s illuminating and transforming Word, as it fits with their hunger and openness.
We totally believe the Gospel (good news of Jesus) is the power of God to salvation, and essential for conversion – but the process is a dance, not a technical pattern or modular course we apply to our kids thought process.. it’s a relational, and deeply meaningful exploration of their uniqueness, including their deep brokenness. Let them start that process early, like 6-7yrs old, don’t fret at their lack of interest or connection with God in the 7-11yrs.. don’t rush them to outward symbols like baptism (don’t get me started on that!) – let your kids breath!
They are not you, their faith will not look like yours exactly, and that is WONDERFUL!
Trust Jesus and don’t parent out of fear. We’ve never forced bible reading, devotions, we don’t require them to go to church, or come to missional events if they don’t want to. We are quite possibly the worst Christian parents ever. Our goal is not to produce outward looking Christians, but inward integrity, humility, respect for themselves and others. Jesus makes increasing sense and the Cross blazes into their life by the work of the Spirit as we (as parents) maintain strong, loving relationship with them. I think for many parents their relationship with Christ is so lacking, that we know it’s not enough to sway the hearts of our kids by itself, so we lean on rules, law, and wield the Bible unwisely in the hopeful formation of our kids.
Your greatest gift parent(s), your walk with Jesus.
Ours is far from perfect, that is exactly the strength of honest parenting; acknowledging our continued hopes and failures. We are on a journey, imperfectly sojourning, dramatizing what a life-long, meaningful walk with Jesus looks like.
I did not intend to write any of that, wow. Just loving what God is doing in our kids, and know many parents struggle, you want to do the right thing. We were laughing just how different parenting is now after 22yrs of it from when we first started. I think the biggest thing, and I know Deb agrees, is to be yourself. I read recently that our missional outward efforts (including our kids) must reflect the character of our faith. I agree with that. Don’t reflect a Jesus or a brand of religion that simply isn’t you or your family. You have a DNA, your family is unique, no other family like you on earth! Be yourselves, let the natural love of Jesus emit and transform you, don’t force and apply other styles that make Christianity look weird. That’s just embarrassing and your kids know it, no matter how much you think it’s ‘good’. Diversity is God’s plan, not uniformity. Stop trying to be any other family – dive into what makes your family uniquely you.
Thank you for praying, supporting, giving – in Jesus name. Enjoy some pictures 🙂