Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Good Reminder

As I read this blog (below) the other day, I couldn’t help but think of the many times that as a dad, I just miss it.  We have been going through Men’s Fraternity through the last few years and it has helped me remember to try to redeem these moments. I pray that this would remind not just our men, but all of our parents not to miss the moments to love, laugh and instruct our children in the few short years they are in our home.

I loved watching my boys participate in sports. One of their youngest ventures was t-ball. For the uninitiated, t-ball is baseball without a pitcher. The baseball is placed on a tee for the young boy or girl to hit.
Now the beauty of t-ball is that you can’t strike out. If you happen to miss the ball when you swing, your coach will help you position your bat, and you get to try again. In fact, you keep on trying until you finally hit the ball. My boys called second and third swings “do-overs.”
I wish I had some do-overs as a father. I tend to be a workaholic. And when I put in long and unreasonable hours, I get grouchy. The laughing, joyous father becomes a grouchy bear.
Though I have had many spells of the bah-humbug attitude, it seemed to be especially pervasive when my boys were young. I was a seminary student and pastor of a rural church. I also worked at a bank since the church only provided me fifty dollars per week in income. My schedule was horrendous. Fifteen hours of classroom time each week. Thirty-plus hours at the bank. More than twenty hours a week of studying. And at least forty hours at the church.
During those three years, I often was anything but a joy. I have some painful memories that I don’t particularly like recalling. But those stories are important reminders.
The three preschool boys were still in their pajamas, watching an early-morning cartoon. “Look at Scooby Doo, Daddy!” one of the boys exclaimed in laughter. Those boys were having so much fun. They wanted their daddy to join in on the hilarity.
I was tired and had to leave for an 8:00 a.m. class, but that does not excuse my behavior. I told the boys in an irritable tone that I had to leave and they needed to hug me good-bye, part of our everyday routine.
The boys were into their cartoons and were oblivious to my demands. In a moment of anger, I left the little campus apartment without my daily hugs. I got into the old Ford, made the usual U-turn that brought me right in front of the apartment. And there, standing on the little porch, were Sam and Art crying, motioning for me to return and hug them.
I felt like such a lowlife—because I was.
Even as I write this story more than two decades later, my eyes are filling with tears.
I jumped out of the car, grabbed my two sons with each of my arms, took them back into the apartment, and hugged them repeatedly.
I then threw off my coat and sat on the floor and watched Scooby Doo.
I missed my 8:00 a.m. class, and I don’t even remember what the class was. But I do remember Scooby Doo. And I do remember my boys yelling with delight that Daddy had returned and joined the party of laughter.
But there just aren’t any do-overs as a father.
You can ask for forgiveness. You can make up for a bad moment.
But you can’t undo that which has already been done.
There are no do-overs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Football Season and Pregame Prayers


By now, you are fully aware that the issue of prayer at football games is being attacked again. In fact, in this article Mrs. Carmen Kyle (a member of our church) was interviewed by Mr. Todd Starnes (who has visited our church and has family in our church) about this very issue.  I appreciate these two individuals greatly for so many reasons, and certainly for their willingness to address issues such as this.  I also believe that overall, most Christians have missed some important things in DeSoto County:  certainly anyone can see the real issue is not an attack on prayer, but it is a disdain for Christianity. The hatred for the things of God should not surprise us as we are told in the Word of God that the world will hate the things of God. To be completely frank with you, I have a two fold issue that has yet to be addressed by anyone that I am aware of to date.

First, this same thing took place in Warner Robins, Ga. during my senior year: there was not great outcry from the community because legally/constitutionally it had already been decided. We were a great school to pick on from a prayer stand point; at the time we were number one in the nation in football and in the largest classification in Georgia. If there was a battle there and believers lost, everyone else in the state would back down. Instead, the response was that our head coach called me in to the office and simply said: “if you guys want to pray, we can’t lead it - but I figured you may want to.” It was over.  As a team, we gathered before the game in private and on the sideline in public, and prayed. This set a tradition in the school; it allowed students to lead out and stand up. This wasn’t a negative thing for me or any of my brothers in Christ on the team - it allowed, or caused me to accept an opportunity to stand and lead among my friends. I would say the issue we faced helped begin to shape me into a more open, consistent walk with Christ among my peers. It was not a bad thing, but it forced students to stand up for something, not parents. This same opportunity is before some of our students today: rather than fighting, let some parents encourage their students to lead out in prayer in the locker room, on the sideline, in the band. This is done not to force others, but to encourage our students to stand up and be counted. It would also give great opportunity for instruction and accountability as it will cause them to understand if they are going to lead out in prayer, it rings hollow if they don’t strive to live for Christ in front of their peers.

Lastly, and even more importantly, I think we may be missing the hypocrisy of this moment among professing Christians. If a parent is upset about this issue, the first question that should be asked is: “Are you praying with your student regularly at home?” If you aren’t, then the epitome of hypocrisy is your getting upset that you can’t pray before a ball game. My guess is the thousands that are members of the facebook page protesting the removal of prayer have probably already removed it from their home, with maybe the exception of the blessing of the food.  If there are so few parents who are regularly praying with their students at home then, why the ire over prayer in public? Is it really that they are fighting for tradition? Is it because it gives us the feeling of holiness that we are fighting against the world when in truth we have already surrendered holiness in our home? Most people in DeSoto County would quickly vote for anything that resembled smaller government, but many of them want the government to get involved and to help them out with this idea of praying with students at ball games. The real question, the real burden, shouldn’t be what is done at ball games, but is family worship being done at home? Is a godly marriage displayed to our children? If not...not praying at ball games is the least of our issues.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't Take Long Runs Alone

About this time last year I began training for my first marathon. I finished it and, to say it was difficult is a vast understatement. Twenty-six point two miles (26.2) miles is brutal; but, as anyone will tell you, it wasn’t simply the race that gets you, it’s the training. For a guy who has had two back surgeries, my guess is that multiple marathons are not the best type of exercise for my back. So, recently I have been attempting cycling; this is better on my back but long rides like 50 miles or so take me around 3 hours. Here is one thing I have learned about long runs and long bike rides…they are much better when you have someone with you.  Not only is it much safer, it causes you to think about the “grind” and pain much less and it encourages you to stay with it… in short, it is built in accountability. As I thought about this, it leaves no doubt in my mind why our Lord came up with the church.

We are called in Heb. 12:1 to run with “endurance;” this points out that sometimes this race we have been called to run is a grind. There will be times our flesh will scream “no” and there will be times we will genuinely believe it is easier to simply sit down and quit. However, we are called to this incredible living organism called the church. God places the body of Christ around me to encourage me, to help keep me safe, to focus on my pain less and so many other things that can so easily ensnare me. Church was not man’s concoction; this was God’s plan to glorify Himself. The amazing thing is Bubba Crowder and I ran a lot of miles together and there were days that I had a bad run and other days that he had a bad run and here is what I discovered…the one who felt the best had to help, encourage and even wait on the other. No matter how good the one person felt or no matter how far he thought he could go, when one was hurt or didn’t feel like they could keep pace, the other would help. Sometimes that help meant slowing down a bit, but other times it meant encouraging or even telling the other to “suck it up and keep running.” Regardless of what it looks like at the moment, someone running the race with me helps. I really don’t need to do a great deal of application on this blog - the truth is God chooses to use the local church in so many areas of my life, but one of the major purposes is to aid in my sanctification. God puts the church in my life and uses the members to cause me to look more like Christ:  sometimes that is by confronting me in sin, other times it is encouraging me with words of grace.  Certainly, Ecclesiastes 4:12 is proven that a 3-fold cord is not easily broken; I am stronger because of my brothers and sisters. We live in a day that the church is gossiped about, blogged about and despised in so many ways. The truth is, a church is filled with the Saints of God who fail, struggle and get weary while in the grind of this race. But God, through His Spirit and His people gives us enough grace to not simply finish the race but win it! Don’t neglect your brothers and sisters in Christ, run the race but not alone…we need each other.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Celebrating Milestones in our Families

We, at Trinity, have a passion to build families around the Word of God and grow, from children through senior adults, in the depth of our understanding of the Word.  We want to equip fathers to lead their homes in family worship and to be the spiritual leaders of their homes.  We want to grow ministry minded mothers who see the development of their children's spiritual walk as their personal mission field.  We want to encourage parents as they build their families on the Word of God.  

Bro. Jeff Summers, our Family Equipping Pastor, has put together several seminars to help parents in recognizing milestones in their children's and family's lives and growing their children through several stages in their development.  Please read through this blog from Bro. Jeff as he explains what each of these seminars will contain.  

From Bro. Jeff: 
At Trinity, our desire and mission is to train, encourage, and equip parents to be the primary faithbuilders in their child’s life.  One of the ways we do this is to provide Milestone classes throughout the year.  What does this mean?

Every person growing in Christ experiences similar markers that are times of celebration.  These markers, or milestones are points of progression in a child’s and family’s growth spiritually. At each one of these milestones, we are providing one session parent seminars designed to equip parents to lead their children toward their next milestone of spiritual development.  These seminars will provide important information regarding what the parents can expect from children in the near future along with how to lead them spiritually.  Parents will receive important resources to assist them in leading their children as they grow. For example, seminars will address how to lead faith talks at every age level; exploring what core competencies children need to learn regarding biblical and doctrinal truths; how our church and our children’s ministry will partner with parents to equip them to grow, and how our church will assist parents with these core competencies.

The following are brief descriptions of the milestones.  Included in the descriptions are what will be covered in the seminar and dates for the class.

Milestone 1:  Birth of a Child
This milestone corresponds to parents who have recently had a child.  If you are planning to dedicate your child through our Parent-Child Dedication service, then this class is mandatory.

In this seminar, we will be reviewing God’s goal for your child and your family, how to shepherd them to the Lord and know His ways during their preschool years, how to build a spiritual foundation in a preschooler’s life, and characteristics of families who build their family on the Gospel.

This class will be offered on October 21, 2012 at 9 am in Room 509 or on October 24, 2012 at 6 pm in Room 509.    The Parent-Child Dedication Celebration service will be on November 4, 2012.

Milestone 2:  First Bible
This is a key milestone as children move from the life of preschool to 1st grade.  This is the point that their little lives open up to a new world of school, new friends, and growth.  Books and the Bible become things they can interact with in a greater way as they learn to read. With so many Bibles available everywhere, we may miss the significance of a child owning his or her own Bible.  In this seminar, we will address not only the importance of Scripture reading, family worship, faith talks and faith walks, but will provide helpful resources for families to get started and continue teaching their children. In addition, you will become acquainted with core competencies growing kindergarteners and first graders will need to know.

This class will be offered on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 9 am in Room 509.

Milestone 3:  Faith Commitment
This milestone focuses on children who are close to placing their faith in Christ, or they have placed their faith in Christ.  In this course, we will explore how to know when a child is ready to receive Christ as Lord, how to guide a child through the decision to receive Christ as Lord, understanding baptism, core competencies, how to disciple your child, and how to lead faith talks. Again, helpful resources and tools will be shared with parents.

This seminar will be offered on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 9 am in Room 509.

Milestone 4:  PreTeen Passage
As children hit their 5th and 6th grade years, their lives are a shot-gun blast of change, choices, and challenge.  They are confronted more and more with temptations and choices than ever before. They will look increasingly to their peers and will begin to want to pull away and “be too cool” to be with parents:  they want to see what they can do on their own.  Yet, at the same time, they will look to you as parents for encouragement, guidance, and even correction. As a parent of a pre-teen, you will remain their most influential person in their lives even in their teenage years. Studies of youth bear this out.  As parents, this is the time to walk with them through all these changes. These years are such an important time to prepare them for adolescence and the relevance of Christ in their daily lives.   This seminar will address how to adjust family worship and faith talks as they mature, purity issues and dating, biblical manhood and womanhood.  In addition, you will receive helpful resources and tools to prepare you as you set out to guide your children to grow in Christ.

This seminar will be offered on Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 9 am in Room 509.

Please make plans to attend these seminars as is appropriate for the age/stage of the children in your home.  In addition, go to www.trinitysouthaven.org and click on Children’s Ministry to find more information on training and resources.