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Don’t Ask Your Kids About Their Day

Don’t Ask Your Kids About Their Day

If you really don’t want to know how your kid’s day went, ask them how their day went. I mean really, has that ever worked on any consistent basis? 

The over-used “How was your day?” question rarely engenders any useful or meaningful dialogue, yet we continue to use it to gain insight into the lives of our children. There has to be a better way to engage our kids in conversation about their Monday lives!

This is where I find such great wisdom in the person of Jesus. He was masterful in the way He drew things out of people in the questions He asked and the stories He told. Can you imagine Jesus simply asking His disciples how their day was? No way. He would have some compelling question, perplexing parable, or intriguing inquiry that would lead to something deep, rich, and meaningful. How can we do the same with our families?

Let me offer five simple and fun alternative ways to ask your kids about their day, without asking your kids about their day. These are all practices we have used in various ways and at different times in our own family. And I should make it clear that parents are expected to be participants and not just facilitators in these practices. You can’t expect your kids to share about their days if you don’t model it for them.

True or False

Everyone at the table has to go around and share two things that happened that day. The trick is that one of those things must be totally false. Then the rest of the family has to vote to decide which one was true and which one was false. Once the truth is revealed then you can begin to ask more questions around that specific story. Clearly that story was significant in some way if they chose for it to be the true thing that happened that day. You now have an inroad to their day through this story. 

Fill in the Blank

This is my favorite question to ask my kids at the dinner table because of how it both provides insight into their day and helps them process their feelings. Here is how it works. You choose someone at the table and then you choose a feeling. Once those are selected, you phrase the fill in the blank statement in this way. “Something that made Pearl frustrated was ________” The person then thinks back on their day through the lens of that feeling. It is always good to mix up the feelings you choose to help your children process a wide range of emotions. Not only do you learn more about their day, but this practice gives you the chance to help your kids process how and why they feel certain things.

High and Low

This is probably the most classic tactic, but it still works so well. You simply share the high and low points of your day. Similar to the fill in the blank question, this helps develop healthy categories of joy and sorrow in life. It is vital that our children know they have the freedom and permission to share the pains and heartaches of their life. We all know that life isn’t perfect, and this is a good way to provide a safe space to process the realities of our fallen world.

Story Time

This one requires a little more creativity, but it is the one that produces the most laughter and smiles around our table. Have everyone choose something about their day that they want to share in story form. So rather than just reporting the facts of what happened, everyone recounts a particular event as if it were a fairy tale, sci-fi, mystery, or any kind of story. After the story-telling, ask them to translate it. For example, the dragon that they slayed in their story might be a metaphor for the spelling test that they got a perfect score on. The fun part is seeing the creativity of your kids and how they describe the ordinary things of their day in extraordinary ways.

Opposite Day

Each person selects a story to share from their day, but they have to retell it in the most opposite way. Then everyone else has to try and interpret what really happened by flipping the story upside down. The fine part of this tactic is that it gets everyone at the table talking together and focusing on one story. It is also quite hilarious at times to see what your kids consider to be the opposite of things in their day.

These suggestions are by no means the silver bullets that will make your dinner table discussions or car ride conversations deep and rich with your kids. But these small practices can build a culture and tradition of more transparent sharing in your family. 

What practices and traditions have you found to be helpful in creating spaces for conversation with your family?

 

The First Songs of Christmas

The First Songs of Christmas

Songs have such power to convey meaning and evoke emotion. Christmas music is no exception.

Whether they cause you to feel jolly or jaded, these seasonal songs of celebration impact us. This year for Advent we are going to experience the wonder and glory of God’s entrance into the world as we begin our sermon series The First Songs of Christmas. We are not talking about tunes we hear at the mall. This advent season we will see the story of Christ’s birth through the songs that are sung in the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel.

While the Gospels each have their own unique flavor and focus, there is something about Luke’s Gospel that just captivates me. Specifically, I love how it’s written in what one might refer to as an investigative journalism style. Luke, who himself was both a physician and historian begins his Gospel with these words:

Luke 1:1–4
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Don’t you get the overwhelming sense that what you are reading is not some religious folklore but rather a historical account of things that happened in real time and space? The Christian Standard Bible translation of the verse says “I have carefully investigated everything.” The story of Christmas and the fuller story of Jesus is not mythological nor fanciful. It is historical. Luke is giving us a true account of the first Christmas and beyond.

Pastor and theologian Thabiti Anyabwalie pens these words about the style and nature of Luke’s Gospel:

“In the gospels we have eyewitness evidence admissible in a court of law. In fact, some scholars believe that Luke and Acts are companion volumes written as a legal brief in defense of the Apostle Paul.” -Thabiti Anyabwalie

Jesus was not born into a historical vacuum. The Lord of history entered into human history in real time and space. He entered into our time at the right time appointed by God. And Luke beautifully lays out the facts for us in his carefully researched account of Jesus so that his readers, including you and me, “may have certainty” about who Jesus is.

As we enter into our Advent sermon series together we are going to encounter the fruit of Luke’s research and investigative work as he introduces us to a cast of historical characters, each of whom reveal something significant about Jesus in the songs they sing and declare.

More than that, we will discover the glorious truth that Jesus is the song our hearts long to sing.

If you are looking for helpful resources for Advent, check out the list below. There are some designed for individuals as well as families. May they be a blessing to you this Christmas!

ADVENT RESOURCES:
Adults

Come, Let Us Adore Him by Paul Tripp
God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah Ciuciu
Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller

Kids

Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Guide
The Littlest Watchmen by Scott James
The Christmas Promise by Alison Mitchell
The Shepherd on the Search by Josh Helms

Celebration Sunday

Celebration Sunday

Everyone will gather at our Olathe Campus to celebrate all that God has done in the last 30 years. The celebration will include our witness of new life proclaimed in baptism, along with a time of fellowship with our church family from all campuses.

Following the baptism celebration, we will enjoy a birthday barbecue and party! It’s gonna be a blast, so bring the whole family (and your favorite side dish to share). Barbeque, balloons, face painting, photo booths. Fun for everyone!

How Boomers Are Shaping Today’s Culture

How Boomers Are Shaping Today’s Culture

How Boomers are Shaping Today’s Culture

Guest Author: Amy Hanson

In 1946, as soldiers returned home from World War II, America’s population began to grow as nearly 10,000 babies were born every day. This growth in the birthrate continued for approximately 18 years which resulted in 78 million people being a part of what is now called the Baby Boomer generation.

First, hospitals needed more beds for the mothers and babies who were being born. When Boomer children began to start school, they often sat 2 or 3 to a desk and shared textbooks. Colleges and universities didn’t have space or faculty for the large number of Boomers who were enrolling as students. As Boomers entered the workforce, there was a need to create new jobs. Now, Baby Boomers are moving into the retirement season of life and they continue to influence culture just as they did when they were younger.

Boomers are changing our view of aging. For starters, Baby Boomers do not like the word senior and they reject anything that smacks of “old age.” Bus trips and potluck luncheons do not resonate with many Baby Boomers because it reminds them of something their parents would do. Retirement communities are making changes to appeal to Baby Boomers by removing the word “senior” from their titles. Some community senior centers are adjusting their programs by offering less Bingo and more hiking excursions. Rather than giving in to some of the stereotypes of aging that suggest this is a time of life for slowing down, Boomers are choosing to remain active and involved.

Many Baby Boomers see this time in their life as an opportunity to do things they have never done before, such as taking classes, learning new things, and traveling to new places. They are demonstrating that the later years of life don’t have to be spent in a rocking chair but can be full of adventure and new experiences. A friend of mine, who happens to be 69, recently rode a zip line with her grandkids for the first time! Her husband is 71, and his goal is to ride his bike a minimum of 10 miles in all 50 states. He only has two more states to go – Delaware and Alaska! Boomers are dreaming new dreams and making plans for the future. Aging is not slowing them down.
Boomers are making a difference. Boomers have been described as being cause-oriented and social activists. Organizations like M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and Parent Teacher Associations were started by Baby Boomers. Now, as this generation is in their sixth and seventh decades of life, rather than spending every day on the golf course or walking along the beach,

Baby Boomers are giving of their time and experience to causes that are important to them. Whether they choose to serve on nonprofit boards, go on mission trips, or volunteer to tutor young people in schools, Boomers want to make an impact with their lives.

Boomers are connecting with younger generations. This summer at my home church, a group of 32 high school students attended a week-long youth conference. In the weeks before their departure, each student was matched with an older adult that would be willing to pray for them each day during the month of July, and specifically pray for the student on the five days they were at the conference. One retired woman shared that when she met her student, the young girl opened up about some of the challenges in her life. They exchanged numbers so they could text and they took a photo together. The older woman made the photo her home screen, and every time she looked at her phone, she was prompted to pray. The commitment to pray for a young person is one way that Boomers can make a difference in the lives of future generations.

Baby Boomers want to share their lives with those coming after them, whether this be their own grandchildren, students at their church, or young couples in their neighborhood. As a parent to a 15-year-old daughter, I am incredibly grateful for the sixty-something woman who leads her girl’s church small group, and for the older couple who gave her a job mowing their lawn this summer and took her out to lunch to simply talk and listen.

The investment Boomers are making in the next generation is helping them to fulfill the words of the psalmist in Psalm 78:4, 5b-7, “…we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done…He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they, in turn, would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.”
There is no doubt that Boomers are shaping our culture today. Many of them are showing us what it means to age well while making a Kingdom impact with our lives. The future is bright!

Three Reasons Why Church Attendance Is > Everything Else

Three Reasons Why Church Attendance Is > Everything Else

“I guess it’s been about a year now since I’ve been at church. Has it really been that long? I guess so. Man, that’s crazy.”

After I prayed to open a lunch gathering for a dynamic organization in Kansas City, I sat down at my assigned table. The gentleman next to me said he really appreciated the opening prayer. In my attempt to make a connection with this stranger, I asked him if he was engaged in a church in the area. That’s when he gave his response above. He looked surprised at himself. It pains me to say: I wasn’t. 

Since he was so transparent, I went ahead and asked him, “Why? If you think church is important, why haven’t you been engaged? I mean no judgment. I’m just genuinely curious.” His response was epic: “No one in my family wants to really go. My teenagers have their plans with their friends, and Sunday’s the only day to work on my golf game. I guess life just happened.” 

It was the most honest response I’d heard in a while, but since then I feel like I’ve heard that a lot. “Life just happened, and time got away from me. Has it been six months since I’ve been to church? Geez.” Life…just…happened. 

There are a lot of folks who are frustrated with church for one reason or another. And I get it. Different local churches have done some terrible things. Pastors and priests have abused power and people. For those of us where that’s been true, I’m sorry. Seriously. Alongside of this, though, more and more people are just “over” church. Church just isn’t as compelling as _________(fill in the blank with literally anything else). 

Attending church has become erratic for most and nonexistent for many in the United States. Whether it’s the rise of nones (not nuns) or empty church buildings, self-proclaimed Christians are looking to other options to fill their Sunday. And maybe that’s you as you’re reading this.  

Ok…so why church anyway? Why meet together with other believers like Christians have for over 2,000 years? We could talk about commands in Scripture that highlight the community of faith. When Jesus commands us to do something, it is always for our good. It may not seem like the most obvious proximate good, but He always has our best good in mind even if we can’t see it from where we’re standing. 

We could focus on duty, where there is always responsibility with privileges. But instead, let’s focus on value. Let’s not center in on duty but delight. I’m convinced we’re missing out when we’re missing gathering together to worship every week. 

Now to be clear, I’m not pumped about Sunday mornings because I’m a pastor. You should have a healthy skepticism when a pastor pushes Sunday. I didn’t become a pastor because I love the pageantry of Sundays. I felt called to pastor, and I delight in seeing people follow Jesus and become more whole in Him. 

The biblical authors had a conviction for deep intimacy within a community of faith as essential to following Jesus over the long haul. And you won’t get that without making being there a priority on the regular. 

So why is going to church on Sunday greater than everything else you could fill your time with on Sunday? Here are at least three reasons that have kept me believing in the church gathered as better than anything else I could do on Sunday morning.

1) Communion with God. 

Far too often we focus on the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence of the individual Christian at the expense of the Spirit’s unique presence with the people of God when we gather together. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just dwell in ME but also dwells among US.

In Ephesians 2:22, the Apostle Paul paints a picture of the church as individual stones laid together to build a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. The Spirit of God is uniquely present when His people come together! Then in Ephesians 4:18-21, this “filling of the Spirit” is cultivated by the community of Jesus engaged together in activities that invite His presence.  

This is more than having a quiet time by yourself or meeting with a friend over coffee. The church is an invitation to experience community with people who aren’t like us but are one with us by the Spirit of God. 

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s not my experience when I go to church.” I get it. What I will say, though, is that when I’m looking for it, God has met me in some of the most boring and surprising of places where His word is preached, songs are sung praising His Name, and God’s people gather around the Lord’s table to receive and remember. 

What if before you joined with the community of faith on Sunday, you asked God to meet you as He promised He would? What if you went expecting His presence with His people? What if you went looking for Him? He might just surprise you. 

2) Belonging to a family.

A lot of times we can talk about the church as a community, which is important. It is! But Scripture talks about the church WAY MORE as a family. Jesus calls those who obey the will of God the Father His brothers, sisters, and mothers (Matthew 12:46-50). And like every family, there are crazy aunts and weird uncles. Family fights, meals, and parties.

It seems like today so many of us are like a college freshman who returns home for the first time. You come home after being gone for a few months and things feel really awkward those first few hours home. You’ve changed and so has life back home. When all we do is go to church sporadically, church is the incessant awkward experience. And who wants that? 

One of the most oft quoted passages about church engagement is Hebrews 10:19-25. But that isn’t talking about church attendance full stop. It’s talking about meaningful relationships within the church family. You can spur one another on to love and good deeds only if you know each other, and really 90% of relationship is just showing up consistently with enough proximity that relationships can build over time.

And that’s hard when a trip to a Caribbean resort for a weekend is available on Groupon or your college friends are getting married every weekend of the spring. Travel is exciting, but it comes at a cost. Are you counting the cost of each trip you take? 

Now maybe you’re thinking, “Gabe, I’ve gone to church for years, and it’s never felt like a family.” First, I’m sorry. Families are hard, and sometimes local churches can be exclusive and closed off. But there might be another reason. Maybe it’s because you’ve wanted someone to father you, when instead you were the one who needed to take initiative in being the big brother or sister? Families never thrive when everyone is looking to everyone else to make connection happen. 

What if you took the step towards family? Maybe you’ve been burned before. I’m so sorry. But it doesn’t have to rob your joy in the future. What if you didn’t just show up but you dove in headlong? You might find that the church family you have is the one you need. 

3) Reorientation to the real world. 

Everything in our world is forming us into a particular kind of person with a particular outlook on life. 

If you pull out your iPhone, it can feel like one of the most liberating tools we own. I can mitigate nearly all my problems and fulfill most of my desires with a few swipes on the screen. And yet, social scientists and computer engineers have tailor-made algorithms with extraordinary accuracy to make us feel free and simultaneously guide our decisions. 

The question is NOT whether you ARE being formed. The question is WHO is forming you. The church gathering was always meant to be a family gathering in a particular place engaged in particular practices to help the Christian be reoriented to the real world, God’s world. 

Something interesting to research is how every New Testament letter was written either to local churches or to those who led local churches. Early followers of Jesus had no category for someone who claimed to follow Jesus and was disconnected from the church, specifically a particular local church. 

We are, as the old hymn reminds us, Prone to wander. Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. And when left to ourselves, like a lone gazelle on the African tundra, we are vulnerable prey for the deformation caused by our own self-deception, the surrounding broken systems of the world, and the evil plans of the evil one.  

We not only need God’s Spirit and God’s family but God’s word spoken to us, shared with us, sung over us, reorienting us to the real world. In a world growing in despair, we need the gospel’s promise. In a world with growing rage, we need the gospel’s forgiveness. In world of growing unrest, we need the gospel’s reconciliation. 

More than an intriguing book or thought-provoking podcast, we need the liturgy of the church gathered. C.S. Lewis brilliantly described learning the liturgy of the church like learning a dance. It’s awkward at first. There’s dissonance from the other dances we’ve learned elsewhere. But the longer we dance, the more we can just lean in and enjoy the rhythm. 

And if we let this dance shape the way we move, we’ll find we’re dancing to the music of the universe with trees clapping and clouds shouting, all making melody to our Creator King. 

Do you want to experience God more deeply? Do you want to rediscover a family you didn’t know you had? Do you want to learn the dance of the universe? This Sunday put those travel plans on hold, pull off the covers, put on your dancing shoes, and make it to church. Then do it again next week. And the week after that.  

Don’t let life happen. Make church happen. It’s just better that way.

Right vs. Easy

Right vs. Easy

A wise character once said, “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” The Old Testament reveals to today’s families the truth of God’s character as a loving father and a faithful provider. From the Old Testament to the present, families have had to make, and continue to struggle to make, the choices that are right to grow in God’s character as His image bearers.

THE CHOICE
Adam and Eve’s choice was obviously wrong, but they picked it (see what I did there?) in the hope that knowing good and evil would make their life easy. Sadly, they were not satisfied with the good, loving, and caring environment God placed them in. Thus, they believed Satan’s temptation would unlock wisdom. Instead, it brought insecurity, confusion, anxiety, and fear.

Today’s parents face the challenge to guide the descendants of Adam not only towards a relationship with God but also through the minefield of temptations culture presents.

THE FRUSTRATION
Daily, parents can relate to the heartache, frustration, hurt, and defeat around their children’s choices. These choices often reflect taking the easy path over the right path. Inexplicably, a preschooler will begin lying not to disappoint, an elementary student allows an idol to shape their language and behavior, a middle-school-aged student will bully out of pride, and a high schooler will turn to drugs, alcohol, or self-harming as a release to fit in or mask their differences from others.

God’s story reflects the treacherous path of His children to replace what is right, and perhaps possibly challenging to do, with the facade of easy. This facade leads towards a path of self-reliance, destruction, loneliness, and ends in isolation. Being made for community, isolation is the perfect ending for temptation. At the core of evil, we are isolated and cut off from the truth and the hope that God can rescue us and love us again.

FORGETFULNESS
We are a forgetful people, born into a long lineage of forgetful people. Even the Israelite descendants who passed down unbelievable stories of rescue from Egypt, the Red Sea, and the wilderness were doomed to become amnesiac again, reverting to their old ways and emotions.

The covenants and laws reminded God’s children He is the faithful provider, even when they rebelled or became lost in their forgetfulness. Each covenant beautifully builds upon the last from one man, to one family, to one nation, and ending in all people. This narrative, when told from the beginning in Eden to the incredible ending of a new heaven and new earth, represents the faithfulness of God to provide a way.

NOT ALONE
Parents, you are not alone. You have a perfect parent, God, who knows the cost of raising generations of children who have walked away from a loving environment due to forgetfulness. Our children are daily reminders that we are still growing in doing what is right, even when it is hard. As champions of our children’s spiritual faith, we stand on the front lines constantly repositioning our children to be on a path toward God.

We do not want to be weary parents. We must be strong and courageous, daily strengthened in Christ—looking to Scripture for words of wisdom, humbling ourselves in intercession and prayer, and above all, seeking the will and provision of the Father. God has demonstrated throughout the Old Testament His love as a father and faithfulness as a provider who is always right on time.