Archive for September, 2009

Open Letter To Parents

Dear Parents,

I understand over the past couple of days some of you have been encouraged by the things that I have been writing to teenage girls and boys.  I am thrilled that you have enjoyed my letters.  Today I want to take a few moments and write directly to you.  My desire in writing this letter is to help support you and maybe even share some insight with you that I have gained from working with teenagers for the past 12 years.  I will begin with a disclaimer however, and let you know that I DO NOT have all the answers.  I am a parent of a 5 & 10 year old.  I’m still working very hard to figure out what I am doing most days…

One source of wisdom that I attempt to draw from daily is the Bible.  As I read the Bible I gain understanding of how we (all of us – children, adults, all of us.) work, live and hopefully thrive in this world.  One verse that I hear many parents  refer to as I speak with them is Proverbs 22:6, which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  One of the mistakes that parents make with this verse is that often times I see the training end somewhere around age ten or eleven.

In my role as a Youth Pastor I have had many parents ask me to disciple their teenager.  I hear often that they, the parents, just don’t know what to do with them.  They don’t know how to respond.  They don’t know what to say.  They feel helpless and don’t know where to turn.  I find great hope in this Proverb.  I take it to heart every time that I speak with one of my daughters.  I trust that the seeds that I am planting in their lives will one day flourish and grow.  I am keenly aware that I need to be present in my daughter’s lives.  They need me and their mother to help guide them while they are young.  Your kids need you to help them make good decisions.  That means that you need to be going to the source of true wisdom yourselves.  You can’t lead people where you aren’t going…

mom_yelling_at_daughterGuiding my children is my role.  At some points I would even use the word control.  As they are young I do have the control in the decisions that are made.  As they grow that control becomes less and it transforms more into a shepherding role.  I give a bit more freedom in order to allow them some room for failure while still having the safety of Mom and Dad around to help them when they do choose poorly.  My role as a parent, your role as a parent needs to be a continual process from cradle to grave.  While the role does change, it is critically important that you protect your relationship with your children so that you can maintain influence over them for the rest of their lives.  This is not accomplished by giving them what they want, but by balancing discipline with love.

In dealing with teenagers I see far too many parents who have transformed their role of parent to more of a friendship.  Hear me on this subject, please.  They have enough friends.  They NEED parents.  Strong parents.  Parents that love them enough to say the hard things.  Parents that are less concerned with being told, “I hate you mom.  You never let me have any fun!” and more concerned with seeing their son/daughter grow into a healthy adult.  If you don’t like the clothes they are wearing make them change.  I addressed the subject of modesty with the girls the other day.  You should be helping them understand boundaries in what is appropriate to wear and what is not.  If Sally so and so is wearing it and that is the reason they give you for wanting to wear it as well you can always say what my mother said to me – “If Billy jumped off a bridge would you follow him?”  Sounds cliche but I think it’s time to get back to basic parenting.  Speak up.  Stand up.  Do the right thing even when it gets uncomfortable.

What’s more uncomfortable –

  • Enforcing the rule that they won’t be alone with someone of the opposite sex or sitting in your living room as your 15 year old daughter tells you that she is pregnant?
  • Taking a stand for what your daughter will wear and won’t wear or working through the pain of rape?

If you have a son you aren’t off the hook on this one.

  • Would you rather speak into your son’s life and enforce that they drive responsibly or get the call from the Highway Patrolman informing you that there has been an accident and there was nothing that the paramedics could do?
  • Would you prefer to keep your son from dating the girl that you know is only motivated by one thing or watch your son drop out of school to get a job to provide for the life that he helped create?

Here’s one –

  • Would you rather keep the liquor in the house for those “special occasions” when family comes over or deal with your kid being a closet alcoholic, who drinks themselves to sleep each night?

teenSome things in our lives are not comfortable.  Deal with it.  Be the parent that you kid so desperately needs.  Protect them but don’t baby them.  Your kid won’t always get their way in life.  Help them to understand that.  They won’t always make the varsity team, get the starring role, or make honor role.  Help them understand that life really isn’t fair – but it’s still worth living!  Above all model a life that is lived well.  You cannot expect your kids to learn principles that you are not willing to model for them.  Your kids should not be held to higher standards than you hold for yourself.

Raising kids is not easy.  No one ever said t would be.  You will make mistakes.  I share with the teenagers that I minister to that not one of them were born with an instruction manual.  While it would be great if one would pop out somewhere between their delivery and the placenta; it doesn’t work that way.  With that knowledge they need to cut you, their parents, some slack.  You won’t always get it right as you work to raise them well.  But don’t let your failures overshadow their lives.  Work hard at being the best parent (again, I’ve already said this but hear me again – PARENT, not friend) that you can be.  And know that there are people that are praying for you.  I pray for every parent of every student that is part of my ministry.  I want to do all that I can to partner with you, encourage you and resource you.

Now go and do it.  Do it well…


Open Letter To Teenage Boys (young men)

Dear Teenage Boys, (actually, let me call you young men, I know being a teen you must hate being called a boy…)

The truth is you are becoming men.  That being said, there are some responsibilities that you need to step into.  I know, I said it, that dreaded word – RESPONSIBILITY.  As scary as the word may be, it’s time to face the facts.  You are responsible for some things now.  To make matters worse, your responsibilities will only grow from here on in.  It doesn’t get easier so I hope you really enjoyed the carefree days of your youth.

For the rest of your life you will be faced with choices.  Choices that bring with them consequences,  Choices that effect more people than just yourself.  Choices that can either set you up to have a great future and choices that can make your life far more difficult than it is meant to be.  How do you make your decisions?  Do you just “go with your gut”?  Are your choices made purely by how you feel?  If it makes you happy will that be the choice that you make?  Do you ask others for advice?  Do you seek any guidance at all?

This is something I have always found interesting.  In school you have a guidance counselor.  Their role is simply to help you make choices regarding the classes that you need to take in order to complete a well-rounded education.  At times they are also there to help you when you are having a bad day and need to talk – but mostly it’s just a quick appointment once or twice a year to pick your classes.  If you have someone that helps guide you through the mundane choices of Algebra or Geometry then why in the world would you expect to be able to jump into much larger decisions on your own?

Teen_BoysYesterday I spoke honestly to the ladies.  I spoke to them about the images that they post of themselves on Facebook.  I’m quite sure some of you are hatin’ on me right now because I am trying to take your fun away.  Sorry.  No, actually I’m not sorry.  I’m annoyed.  I’m frustrated.  I’m downright pissed off at times.  I see the way that girls are doing anything and everything possible to be noticed by you guys.  I see the way they are throwing themselves at you in order to feel wanted and cared for.  The sad fact is that many girls are not getting the love that they need from their father’s the way that they are supposed to and because of that they will take any kind of attention they can get – including you all gazing upon their bodies – and giving them the appearance that they are desirable.

I guess that is one of the responsibilities that we can talk about right now.  The responsibility of being a man and not just some punk that will freely take what is not yours to have.  Just because some girls are willing does not mean that you should be.  Man up!  Having sex doesn’t make you a man.  Sex does not equal love nor does it equal care for another person.  And quit using the line, “I love you.” just to get what you want.  Girls so desperately want to hear this and when you manipulate them by telling them what they want to hear you are only continuing the cycle of un-acceptance that these girls are struggling with.  Each of these girls are someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, and someday, someone’s wife, mother, grandmother.  Protect them.  Protect them because you will appreciate your future wife that much more if she enters a marriage with you with no baggage.

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I know that seems like such a foreign concept to you right now.  Marriage is something that you are not thinking about.  Actually, if I may make an observation (and I will because it’ my blog and you can’t stop me) the cycle that you are perpetuating is one of divorce.  Your dating habits actually teach you to be great at LEAVING relationships.  Think about it.  You date a girl.  It’s fun.  It gets serious.  You get physical.  It goes as far as it can go.  You get bored.  You have some conversation (hopefully it’s face to face and not via text message!) and you share with her that, “it’s not you , it’s me.  I guess I have changed.  But we can still be friends.”  (Forgive me for a minute, but you’re lame!)  Then you go find another girl and repeat steps one through seven.  And then you do it again, and again, and again.

What did you just teach yourself to do?  When the going gets tough, leave.  Think about how many married couples have done this over the years.  Rather than take the vow, the commitment, the oath that we have made seriously – “to have and to hold till death do us part” we just leave when it begins to get difficult.  Maybe try and just be friends with girls.  See your role, your responsibility, as one of a protector of girls.  If more guys did that these days I believe we could see a radical reformation in relationships that would make a difference for generations to come.

There is so much more I could write to you, and I hope that through the next years we will talk more about this stuff.  Trust me, I’m not coming down on you alone.  I understand that there are plenty of girls that need to understand that they need to protect you guys as well.  I understand how you are wired – I’m wired the same way.  When you see something that looks good you want to look at it more and more and more.  I do understand that girls need to cover themselves up to keep you from desiring to see more of them.  But you’ve got to do all that you can to protect yourself.  Get together with some other guys and talk about this stuff.  Share with them about your struggles.  Allow them to help you.  Find some other guys that may be a bit older than you, or for that matter way older than you, ask them to help you.  Ask them for guidance.

If it worked for that Algebra class who knows how it could help with this kind of stuff…

Open Letter To Teenage Girls

Dear Teenage Girls,

I know many of you.  I spend time with you.  I pray for you.  I know your parents.  I pray for them even more.  Over the past few years many of you have become “friends” with me on Facebook.  I think this is a great thing.  I am always looking for ways to connect with people and I see Facebook as one of those ways that help to build relationship.  That being said, can I be honest and blunt with you for a moment?

You show too much of yourself in the pictures that you post.  I understand that it’s all the rage to take a picture of yourself by extending your arm high up into the arm, above yourself, in a way that aims the camera down.  I’m not so naive to believe that you are not aware of how the camera is angled or what exactly the picture focuses in on.  I’m as Pastor and I take the calling I have very humbly.  But before I am a Pastor I am a Father.  I take that role very seriously.  I love my two daughters.  I don’t think that I am your father.  You have a father, or at least some of you do.  Some of you may be missing that relationship for one reason or another.  I know that you not having a great connection with your father is not part of God’s plan.  With that being said, can you hear the words I write as words from a father – please?

putthemawayStop posting pictures of your breasts on Facebook.  I understand that you are proud of what God has blessed you with.  I am quite sure that is true because you keep giving all of us that are in your friend list access to numerous pictures of them.  Please, hear my heart for you as you read these words.  You may be proud of the “girls,”  but you are not doing yourself any favors by showing them to the rest of us.  The people that are looking at these pictures are not looking at these images and thinking, “what a nice smile she has”  nor are they thinking about how happy you look.

The pictures that you are posting of yourself make you look cheap.  I’m sorry for saying this but you need to understand that you are freely giving away something that costs you dearly.  The boys at school may like you more because of the pictures that you are posting but they aren’t liking you for the reasons that you HOPE they are liking you for.  They are happy that you are posting these pictures.  Some are VERY happy.  These boys will want to spend time with you.  At least, for a little while they will.  But soon enough someone else will come along that will show them more of what they want to see.  At this point you will be faced with a choice.

“Do I give them more?  Do I allow them to touch me?  Do I give myself away?

If I don’t do this they may not like me any more.”

Many of these questions, if you are already struggling with friendships, will be easy to answer.  You will say yes.  You may not want to but the pull to have someone attracted to you will be too strong.  No one wants to be rejected.  I understand that.  I also understand the heartache that comes from being used and then left behind.  Don’t give yourself away – in any form.  Change the angle of the camera.  Aim it at your face.  Put on some clothes that hide some of the front of you.  We love you – all of you – but we don’t need to see ALL of you.

In my attempt to add a bit of humor to this post.  I’ll make this one last statement.

Put away your boobs and step away from the camera.  Please.

What’s Virgin Mean?

I love this!  As my daughters are beginning to ask more questions with the new baby on the way this helps me prepare…  (sarcasm added for effect)

U2 Countdown

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Next Sunday I will be seated (well, actually most likely standing, jumping up and down, yelling & laughing) 12 rows from the stage in Foxboro, MA for the U2-360 tour.  Can I just say this?  I AM PUMPED!  The countdown begins.  6 days to go…

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Between Wyomings – a review

Book Description

Join Ken Mansfield on a road trip through the canyons of Hollywood, the outlaw alleys of Nashville, and the backstreets of his soul as this Grammy Award-winning producer recreates his journey through the lush landscapes of success and the deserts that led him home.

For three decades, Ken Mansfield lived the heady life of a record executive and friend to such cultural icons as the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Dolly Parton, and Waylon Jennings. Along the way, he collected a Grammy, number-one albums, and a disquiet that he pushed soul-deep.Between Wyomings invites readers to travel with him on a tender journey that calls readers to reflect on the highways of their own lives and the deserts that press them into the heart of a Creator who has been there all along. As Ken discovers, sometimes when we see how lost we are, we can finally begin to find home.

My Review

After sitting on a shelf for far too long I picked this book up and prepared to read it.  I’m not sure what had been keeping me from getting to this book but as I began to read through the pages I found myself feeling cheated.  This book seemed to drag on and on and there were many times when I prayed that the next page would bring me to an exciting portion of the book that I could find interesting.  I understand that the author has had some amazing experiences throughout his musical career but I just really didn’t care to be a sounding board for his memoir.  I found this book lackluster at best and really wish that I had picked up a different selection to review this time around.

Do yourself a favor, unless you are a huge fan of music history and are interested in the details of the music industry, read something else.

Finishers

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Back in August I preached a series on Influence at GCC.  The final message spoke on the subject of being faithful to complete the things that you have committed to.  Here’s a snippet of the message:

I believe whole-heartedly that we are in a room full of people who have had a hard time finishing things in our lives because we have never fully experienced the joy of crossing a finish line in our lives.  I experience this as a pastor.  We are continual works in progress.  The work of a pastor is never done.  Until we cross the finish line of life there is always more for God to do in us.  As one who has a heart to see people grow and walk in step with Jesus I acknowledge that my work will never be done.  Just as I need to grow, there is more that I can do to help many of you grow.  There are days when this calling feels like burden.  I’d love for a day when I can close up my computer and feel as though the work is done.  A day when the task is over and the project is complete; but when you deal with human beings, the work is never done.

I think that is why I have become a runner.  In a race there is a definitive starting line and finishing line.  There is an end to the run.  There is a sense of accomplishment to the work that you have been doing.  I told you all a few weeks ago that in May I ran my first half-marathon.  I ran it with my good friend Jeff Cerow.  He had my back the whole way through the race.  We set the pace for the each other.  We encouraged each other throughout the 13.1-mile run.  And we finished the race together.  I can still remember the rush of emotion that came over me as I crossed the finish line.  It is an experience that I will cherish.  I accomplished something that day and I believe I also broke a trait of not finishing things.

I’d like to make this same opportunity available to you all.  On September 11 at 5:30 the Friendly Kitchen is hosting a 5K Trail Race over at NHTI.  I want to challenge each and every one of you to participate in this.  As of right now we have the entire staff of GCC on board for this race.  I want you all to join us.  It is a fundraiser and will go towards a cause that we as a church already support and volunteer at.   There are registration forms at the tables by the doors as you leave later today.  You have over a month to train.  A 5K is just over 3 miles.  You can do this.  I believe that not only can you do this but also some of you NEED to do this.  You need to cross a finish line and experience the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with it.  I believe that for some of you there will be a spiritual breaking that takes place as you commit to training and running in this race.

That was the challenge that I posed to the congregation of Grace Capital Church.  That was 6 weeks ago.  Yesterday, Friday, September 11, sixty people from Grace Capital Church ran in the Friendly Kitchen 5k and FINISHED something.  I truly believe that something spiritual took place for each person as they crossed the finish line.  For some people it was their first ever race.  For others it was just another run.  For all it was a chance to finish something that they put their mind to and they did just that.  I, for one, am very grateful for the showing of GCC runners and am very proud of each of them!

Great job TEAM GCC!

The Healthcare Debate

A friend reminded me of some great wisdom on healthcare and I think it really sums up my thoughts on this whole healthcare debate.  President Obama should really think about this with this new information…

In the wild, there is no health care. In the wild, health care is, ‘Ow, I hurt my leg. I can’t run. A lion eats me. I’m dead.’ Well, I’m not dead. I’m the lion. You’re dead. — Dwight Schrute

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Daddy Date

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Tomorrow brings the first Friday of the new school year.  Which also brings the first Daddy Date of the new school year that I will have with Megan.  Two years ago I was convicted by God in the amount of time I spent with my daughter.  I clearly heard God speak to me and say, “If you want to be able to speak into your daughter’s life when she is 15, 20 and 30 years old you need to start speaking into her life now.”  At that time she was 8 years old.  This will start the third year that Megan and I have had a non-negotiable, can not be rescheduled Daddy Date on Friday mornings.  I love it.  It’s on my calendar for every Friday morning and NOTHING is allowed to get in the way of that time with her.

I love our times together.  We spend time eating donuts, drinking coffee (she gets a hot chocolate) and talking about everything and nothing at all.  Some mornings we just watch the pigeons outside eating crumbs on the ground and laugh at how silly they walk.  Other mornings we talk about school, her dreams about the future, and what we might do that weekend.  The point is less about the conversation that we are having and more about the fact that she knows that she is important to me and there is nothing that will get in the way of our special time together.  I want her to know that she will always have direct access to me and part of how I communicate that truth is by spending this time with her.  It’s also the reason why our Administrative Assistant knows that if my wife or either of my kids call me that no matter what I am doing, their calls get put through to me.

This year Makenna also has started school and I am thrilled that we will now begin this tradition together as well.  Makenna will get Saturday mornings and we will most likely end up at McDonald’s for cinnamon rolls – she likes them better than donuts and I always leave it up to the girls to name our place of meeting.  I’m excited for this new year.  I am thankful that my girls look forward to this time with me.

My prayer is that they always will…

Best Place To Meet People

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Every year the Concord Monitor does a best of list and this year Grace Capital Church won the vote for the Best Place To Meet People.  I love this!  The fact that we strive to be a very relational place is why I attend this church.  My first time walking through the doors of Grace Capital Church over 12 years ago I was met by a woman who greeted me with a hug and made me and my wife feel welcome.

Do you want to meet people in and around Central NH?  Come to Grace Capital Church.  We’ll help you connect with others!