Tag Archives: teenagers

A Vaccination for Adolescence

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preteen

Why haven’t they developed a vaccination for adolescence?  Why bother searching for a cure for cancer when only a certain percentage of the population will ever get?   Better to focus on something we all go through at least once with our own raging hormones and often go through again when we have children.

Last week I invented a new word to describe my middle child in her pre-teen mood:  “Attitudy”.  It can be either an adjective describing her in this phase or an adverb describing her actions.   It is a good word.  It accurately describes how I feel about eye rolls, a sassy tone of voice, and sullen pouting.  The word has kind of a bathroom quality about it.  Only a potty word can accurately capture the essence of the tween.  Yes, Attitudy is a useful word, and you’re welcome to use it too.

Maybe instead of searching for a medical option to cure adolescence, we should look into some kind of residency program, like a cross between summer camp and an insane asylum. We could call it… Boarding School.  It’s got a ring to it.  “Attitudy Academy”.  What do you all think?  All in favor of Boarding School for the temporally insane pre-teens say AYE!

Lord help us.  No wonder in the Bible we often see young teenage Bible characters out in the fields tending the sheep.  Probably they were just disrupting the peace of the home too much, so their parents sent them waaaaay out into the fields.  They needed to be alone and to blow off some steam by throwing rocks at giants and such.  I’m just hopping this one doesn’t sell her sister to a band of traveling Midianites.  (I’ll have to make a mental note to steer clear of anyone traveling by camel.)  

Although not Biblical, the story of Sleeping Beauty is making a lot more sense to me now:  just put her into a coma until we can marry her off.  Well, maybe I’ll have to keep searching for that vaccination for adolescence.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/twodolla/4192187548/”>twodolla</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>CC BY</a>

The World was Not Worthy of Them

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“Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves.  They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed foreign armies.  Women received their loved ones back from the dead.  There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better:  resurrection.  Others braved abuse and whips, and yes, chains and dungeons.  We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless- the world didn’t deserve them!- making their way as best they cold on the cruel edges of the world.”  Hebrews 11:32-38

Westminster Abbey martyrs

I teach the Book of Acts to the 9th graders at our school.  I really did try to get out of this assignment, but it seems that I’m the only teacher who actually went to Bible College, so I was the obvious choice for teacher.  Turns out, I’m really enjoying this class.  It kind of reminds me of teaching Sunday School to our youth group kids all those years ago.  But this class is distinctly different from our church youth group where the majority of the kids had grown up in church, hearing all the classic Bible stories over and over again until they were bored with them.

This class is made up of a wide variety of denominations, most are some flavor of Protestant, one is Catholic, one hasn’t decided if he really wants to follow Jesus or not.  There are a handful of missionary kids, and the rest are Latinos whose parents want them to learn English.  So my first question of the year was, “Who has read the book of Acts in the Bible?”  Not one of them.  As I teach, I weave back and forth between the Old and New Testaments showing parallels in other stories, discussing symbolism unique to Judaism, explaining cultural details that us Western thinkers often miss.  The thing that is interesting to me is that if I were teaching this to our kids who grew up in church, they would be bored.  They have heard this so many times.  But for this class, most of these stories are new and ALL of the conclusions I present are revelations to them.  And that’s exciting to me.

I love laying out new material.  I love seeing the lights go on in their eyes, waiting for that “Ah-ha!” moment when it all clicks for them.  I love watching the wheels start to turn in their minds as they are exposed to completely new thoughts.  I love hearing them unravel a story and wind it back up again- making it theirs.  I love that.

When we reached the point of the story where the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is stoned and then later Saul is converted.  We “camped out” on these stories.  We talked a lot about what it means to be a martyr and why the Lord allows Christians to die like that.  We read stories about modern day martyrs and watched the movie “The End of the Spear”.  Then I assigned them a paper about a martyr of their choice.  This awakening of knowledge stirs the embers of passion into a flame.  This age, kids can really seize upon a cause and wrap their hearts around it.  They want to meet with ideas that challenge them to think and feel and question their own beliefs.  This is a good age to stoke the flames of dedication.

The potential to change the world that sits latent in those desks in my class room is just staggering to me. Will the world find itself unworthy of any of my students?  I hope so.  I hope that some day these kids will look back on their 9th grade year as the year when they decided to get serious about their relationship with God- to really “go for it” and “give their all”.  If you can look death in the face and know where you will end up once the battle is over, then you have robbed death of its power of intimidation over you.  You won’t fear death.  Death comes to us all.  Will the world which is unworthy of your life, look you in the face as you die and sigh because it could not conquer you?

Spirit Breaker: When Life Disappoints Me

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Warning:  This blog post contains indelicate, unorthodox, inelegant, and unrefined locution not merely for the purpose of being vulgar or crass, but for the express intention of communicating intense emotions with appropriately magnified rhetoric.  All opposed should cease reading approximately midway through this article.  ~Respectfully, Overly Conscious, Dutifully, Protectively and Sincerely Yours, The Author.

As we each journey through life we find something meaningful to pour our heart and soul into.  For me, I find meaning in pouring myself into ministry to others.  But sometimes we meet with a challenge or road block that can be a Spirit Breaker for us.  Sometimes it’s losing something that we’ve invested ourselves in that causes heart break.  Sometimes the heart break takes the form of rejection by someone that we have loved or someone that we have given our best to.  For me, that is the worst Spirit Breaker.  It takes a long time to heal from that kind of heart break and it takes a true act of the will to love again.

Josh, talking with students

Let me give you an example of this kind of Spirit Breaker.  Back in 1996 Josh was a Senior in Bible College.  We had been married for about a year and a half.  That summer our son was born, Josh was working on his internship and holding down 2 part time jobs.  Then he returned to classes in the fall and added that load to his back as well.  He was working very hard.  In the middle of his internship under the youth pastor at our home church, the youth pastor resigned!  Josh finished his internship (a.k.a. worked for free as the youth pastor) and in the fall was hired part time to officially fill the position.  He worked full time and was paid part time.  He graduated the following spring with a degree in youth ministry and more than a year of experience already under his belt.  The next 8 years were both fantastically successful and fantastically painful as we poured ourselves heart and soul into the youth group. We loved those teenagers more than they will ever know.

We graduated 8 classes of teenagers.  We played a part in the development of a couple hundred teenagers during those 8 years.  The best part was being a spiritual influence, mentor, guide, and leader to kids in various stages of spiritual growth from 7th grade to 12th grade.  The worst part, the Spirit Breaker was when kids would make bad decisions even when they knew the right path to take.  As youth leaders we could only stand at the side of the road of life and shout words of encouragement or caution.  We couldn’t force people to follow God.  We couldn’t force people to behave right.  We couldn’t force kids to stay in the church after they graduated from high school.

It was more than heart breaking to see kids that we had prayed over, cried with, and poured our heart and soul into then leave the youth group and turn their hearts away from God.  We felt like failures when we saw some of our teens floundering inspite of our best efforts to lead them on the right path.  We loved those kids and tried to show them God’s love.  When things went bad, we had to remind ourselves that these kids weren’t rejecting us, they were rejecting God.

Compounding this heart break, this sense of failure, was the lack of support– sometimes open hostility- that we experienced from some of the parents.  We used to joke that Moses had the right idea:  he killed off everyone over 20 before he lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land.  Of course that was a joke, and we had a few amazingly supportive parents on our side, but it was just that the disgruntled ones complained so loudly and some were on the church board.

Josh had a particularly devastating experience when a deacon who had kids in the youth group swore at him and complained that the church would be better off without a youth pastor.  This deacon immediately went on my “list of people I do not like” and it was really hard to minister to his kids after that.  I could have let that be a Spirit Breaker for me, but I chose the high road and chose to keep loving the kids even though their dad was a jerk.

(Readers of sensitive constitution should omit the following paragraph.)  I can’t tell you how many times I was horrified and humiliated by a parent when we were in youth ministry.  I had one guy stop me in the church lobby on a Sunday night to complain that there were not enough teens in church on Sunday nights so his kid didn’t want to come either.  Then in the same breath he complained that I was looking a little sloppy for church- I was wearing a T-shirt and cargo pants.  I wanted to tell him, “Screw you!  I don’t drive your kids to church, you do!  And I can wear whatever the hell I want, no one is paying me to be here or to abide by a dress code.  This is probably WHY kids didn’t want to come to church, because some self-righteous prick might criticize their clothing.”

Instead I again chose the high road (with a touch of smart-aleck) and said, “I dressed up nice this morning when all the grown ups were in church.  I figured there wouldn’t be as many grown ups here tonight, so I could dress more appropriately for ministering to teenagers.”  I was shocked that someone would be so critical of me personally.  It was like I wasn’t even a human being in this parent’s mind.  I was giving my all in a “job” where I never received ONE paycheck and this was the reward?  Spirit Breaker.

But I always had hope that I was making an eternal difference for some kid out there.  What off-set all the heart breaking experiences in youth ministry were the times when a kid would really surprise us.  Sometimes a kid that struggled a lot as a teen would pull it together and become a strong Christian adult!  Surprise!  We never could tell how all these seeds that we were planting would turn out.  We had to keep the hope alive.

We just had to hope that we were making an eternal difference even though we didn’t see the evidence right away.  I remember on our last night at youth group, kids and parents were standing around waiting to talk with us and to say good bye.  A few hours later, as the crowd began to dwindle, a girl from a past graduating class came up to me.  She had driven 4 hours from college to say good bye to us.  Then she had waited in line for at least an hour to talk to me.  Ironically, I never felt like I connected well with this girl even though I tried.  I really did love her though.  She started crying and thanking me for the cards that I used to write to her.  Just that little act of attention meant a lot to her.  I was very touched.  Somehow I had made a difference in her life even though I didn’t know it at the time.

Hope.  It is only in thinking of the possible results of the millions of little acts of kindness that I can set aside the pain of Spirit Breaking experiences and to keep on loving and giving and working and sowing seeds into the lives of others.  My only hope is that somewhere along the way, something I do will MEAN something, someone will be touched by a little act of kindness, someone will see Jesus differently because I loved through the heart break.  And for me, that is the only way to overcome a broken spirit… hope for better.

“God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.  It is a good thing to quietly hope for help from God.  It is a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.”  Lamentations 3:24-26