Monday, February 28, 2011

You are not the clothes you wear

I have a daughter that is at the end of her 3rd grade year.  She is on the tail end of Gen Y.  She’s also starting to turn into a young woman.  There are moments when I look at her doing something, and it’s hard to see that little girl that used to not let me put her down, or that toddler that refused to sleep unless I was holding her.  I look at her and see the woman that she is becoming- beautiful, strong, sympathetic, courageous, a deep follower of Christ.  She is the best of my wife and me, and we are very proud and thankful God blessed us with her. 

So it was with great sorrow, that walking down the aisle at a local store the other day, that I saw a woman on the front cover of a magazine, barely covering her breasts.  The magazine had headlines screaming at my daughter (and others as well) how to please their man, how to do this and how to do that.  They had articles on what clothes to wear to attract men, and tricks to keep him happy in bed.  It horrified me to see the oversexualization of our little girls confront me standing in line to pay for my groceries.  I did my best to make sure that she didn’t read the headlines, but I won’t always be there.

Having been in student ministry for over 10 years, my wife and I saw this trend a long time ago, and so we have been talking with our daughter for several years about what it means to be a woman in Christ.  We have had conversations about what’s appropriate to wear, how boys will starting talking to her and looking at her, we even have talked about when it’s ok to kiss a boy.  You may think that this is a little young to introduce these things, but it wasn’t because we initiated it.  Most of our conversations started out of something that she had seen or heard her friends talk about.

She knows that eventually boys will begin looking at body parts that right now really aren’t there.  But she also knows NOW that she can’t wear certain things (i.e. pants w/ writing on the rear end, shirts that don’t cover her stomach, bikinis) and we have ingrained in her a sense that she’s worth more than what those clothes communicate.  

Here the guidelines we use when it comes to what she’s allowed to wear (these aren’t mine, but from a friend):
1.       If you have trouble getting into or out of it, it’s probably not modest
2.       If you have to be careful sitting down or bending over, it’s probably not modest
3.       If people look at any body part before your face, it’s probably not modest
4.       If you can see your most private parts or the outline of them under the fabric, it’s probably not modest

You might be thinking that she’ll be looked at as different when she’s older, or we’ll see what happens when she hits high school.  And you may be right, but I can tell you that as we implant God’s word in her heart and life she will be like the tree growing beside a stream, a tree that produces fruit in season and always has leaves (Psalm 1:3).  She will know that her identity doesn’t come from a man or her ability to please him.  And it doesn’t come from what kind of clothes she wears; it comes from her being a child of the King.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Bigger Problems

A recent article in the Kansas City Star reported the findings of a recent study on millennial's attitudes towards sex and marriage.  The findings of the study are very concerning (Kansas City Star article) on two levels: 

    * The amount of students who are experimenting in sexual touching and sexual intercourse
    * The amount of students who approve of non-traditional families and divorce

As I read through this article, I was shocked at the numbers.  I was shocked at the attitudes of this generation towards sex, marriage, and divorce.  But something gnawed at my insides as I read and re-read it.  Then it struck- it's not the numbers that really bothered me, it was the fact 65% of the teens surveyed believed that truth was relative.  That what may be true for me, doesn't make it true for someone else.  It's this statistic that terrifies me.

If you've ever heard the term "postmodern", this is what it means:  The only truth is that there is no truth.  To see an overwhelming majority of an entire generation believe this makes my blood run cold.  This is a slippery slope that we're on.  Once a generation is broken loose from the moorings of truth, then anything is truly possible.  When people come to the conclusion that my reality is based on my perceptions and feelings, then whatever they choose is right/wrong.  And who am I to judge?  Who are you?

As a follower of Christ, my job is not to argue the merits of Jesus, but to live out His love.  Very few see Christ (though there are some) through a debate of facts.  Most come to see Him, because of the way His followers act.  The New Testament book of Acts (Ch. 2) shows us that the early church won over thousands of converts because of the way they lived in community with one another.  They put flesh and bones on the words of Christ and it transformed the planet.

We, The Church, must once again begin living in community with one another and with the larger community around us.  We must put flesh and bones on the words of Christ in a way that shows Gen Y what the Truth really is (and WHO He is!).  We must love one another.  We must serve the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed.  We must be reading His words, imparting His thoughts to our sons and daughters, and  praying the Scriptures deep into their souls.  There is no argument more compelling, more staggering, more final- than the cross of Christ and the life altered by it.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

What in the world?

Recently I posted two articles from Relevant magazine on the effects of pornography in relationships.  I then had several conversations with students dealing with sexual sin in their lives. 

Today, I retweeted an article on the over sexualization of our young daughters.  What is going on around here?

I’ve never been more convinced as a student pastor and father, that the only answer is Jesus Christ.  The real problem, as I see it, is that the church is failing in communicating that.

In recent studies done by Barna Research, Pew Research, and LifeWay Research, millenials are far more disconnected from faith than any other previous generation.  Millenials have lived in a much more complex and saturated culture than past generations and this has led to 1 in 4 millenials not associating with any particular faith.  This is more than GenX at the same point (20% in the late 90’s) and twice the amount as Boomers (13% in the late 70’s).

This is manifesting itself in a myriad of ways.  The biggest of which, is that most upper classman high school students no longer attend a church service.   For those that do make it through high school, anywhere between 70-90% (depending on who you read) drop out of church during their freshman year of college.

It’s time we stopped worrying about pizza parties, and started teaching our children God’s word.  Not only must we do this, as parents- we HAVE to live it out in front of our kids.  Parents/ mentors/ pastors must begin to put flesh on the words of Christ.  We can talk all we want, but the moment we starting living it out- that’s where the impact comes from.

If you’re a parent, I’m going to highly encourage you to get involved in a local church with a thriving youth ministry.  Here are some questions that you need to be asking your student pastor:

  • What can I do at home to follow up w/ what is being taught?
  • What scriptures do I need to research so that I can discuss and answer any questions they (my child) may have?
  • What topics are going to be discussed or taught in the ministry and how can I help?

Just start here and see where God takes you!  Parents that are involved with the spiritual development are the very thing that will reverse this trend.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sixth grade nothing

As a student in middle school, I was bullied non-stop.  Sixth grade was the worst for me.  There was a group of eighth graders that would harass me to the point of physical violence. It felt hopeless.  My other friends (the few I had) we too little to do anything about it.  I didn't/wouldn't tell my parents and bullying wasn't the issue in schools that it is now.


This issue is close to my heart.  It's one that affects our students at the deepest levels.  To be torn down to a point were you feel that you are worthless is a terrible place for a child to be.  No matter what the "problem" is, we should be treating others with respect and honor.  Both of these are values that are lost on today's culture.  We tell our kids (by our actions) that they are animals without self control, so here's some condoms.  We tell them they are worthless, that's why we have aborted millions of their peers.  We tell them that they are a cosmic accident, so there's no real reason for anything.  We surround and desensitize them to violence and we wonder why they turn on themselves and each other.

To be devoted to each other and to honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10) is to show respect:  Respect for our selves and for others.  We must teach our kids that they have worth, not based on others' opinions, not based on where they live/ the clothes they wear/ the car in the driveway.  Their worth comes from being a child of the King.  It comes from Him.

If you are being bullied, have a student being bullied, or are doing the bullying- get help right away.  Get in touch with your school administrators, parents, student pastors to find the help you need.  Do NOT wait.

As I struggled with my bullying problem, it was this very thing that carried me through.  My parents had taught/showed me my worth wasn't based in anything here, that it came from my Creator and doesn't change.  It's something that my wife and I have instilled in our children.  And we pray that they will instill these characteristics in theirs.