Time to wake up, grow up and face adulthood
This seems like a horrible comparison of extremes, but it does appear that in many cultures, young people grow up earlier and come into adult responsibilities merely by taking up what needs to be done. In many American homes, children do not.
The article I read posited that we impose that our children are “special” and must do things perfectly, and when they often don’t, they give up and the parents finish the tasks so the family doesn’t lose face and the child remains above the fray. Looking at the other cultures, “special” doesn’t seem to mean anything, especially when survival is such a large part of existence. Everyone works together for the sake of the family.
Seems like a romantic notion, except most of us wouldn’t trade our comforts for a simpler way of life.
In industrialized nations, there is a prolonged route to adulthood. Turning 13 and the sweet 16 are symbolic, but the real benefits of being an adult aren’t bestowed until later in life. I would argue that the real age of adulthood in America is somewhere in the mid-30s. Around that age, many people are starting to make enough money to support their families. The lessons of keeping finances have been eked out, jobs become more stable (one hopes), owning a house might be within reach, and a person is starting to gain more respect in the workplace (with a few gray hairs starting to show). In the meantime, the period of odd angst that was once a bastion of the teen years is extended through the 20s. Some sociologists are calling this period “Emerging Adulthood” or “Extended Adolescence.”
Despite our culture’s obsession with being young forever, becoming an adult is a good process; one that I believe could be started much earlier. In fact, I see in many young people the potential for leadership and yet they have been given permission to do nothing for so long that there is a great amount of strain to do things that, over time, have become simple.
Let’s wake up early so we can work. “Oh man — that’s hard.”
This decision has to be made regardless of the consequences. “I don’t like the sound of consequences. Can we do that tomorrow?”
Your speech will be tomorrow, are you prepared? “What day is tomorrow? What? When?”
Growth is frustrating for everyone involved. Especially for those who hold the keys to the world adolescents are growing up into. When King Saul saw that young David had defeated Goliath, he became jealous. David and Saul’s son Jonathan became good friends, and at many times Saul tried to kill David. David eventually became king and the administration of Saul and his family faded away.
In Ecclesiastes, it is written that there is “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot …” and many more times to do many things. If you have grown up and been grown up for a long time, is it your time to build someone into adulthood? Or if you are growing and wish to be planted as a seed to grow, how are you going to be reborn? I think there is a connection that needs to be made. More of the wise could be reaching out to those who need wisdom. It is clear that we have the time, how will we grow the future?
And what is your part?
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.
Commonly held ideas become “memes” of our lives
We laughed a bit at the Christian memes we created, puzzled over others, but had a great time decoding theology in this new form of communication that is so popular online.
Ideas are powerful. They are coded in images, explained and written in our minds. They are often passed down through our families. I know mine, for instance, had a very strong idea of the man being a “gentleman” in dating, where the lady is to be treated with high regard, and love is to be tame in public but vibrant between those who are considering courtship leading to marriage. This notion affected many things, including how phone conversations in dating were to be initiated. I remember one time a girl called our home asking for me, and my mother was not entirely sure it was proper. Sometimes this created tension, but the idea became a part of me whether I lived it out totally or not.
Ideas can be like scripts — influenced by our families, friends and popular culture — where they shape how we perceive and react to the world around us. Do you remember the last time you were upset with a situation? Not just a minor annoyance, but something big, something that consumed your thoughts. What words came into your mind? “Life shouldn’t be like this.” What should it be like? “Things like this don’t happen to me.” Who do they happen to? “I wish we could all just get along.” Oh, I know where that one came from, and it likely wasn’t mom. “I’m not good enough.” When is this ever a good thing?
Emotions are expressed in thoughts, which are conveyed with images and words, which we use to build who we are and where we wish to go. Despair is often the act of grasping for a description of our reality, and hope can be the ability to explain how we are going to move forward.
How do we break through tragedy or a circumstance with incomplete or unfortunate “scripting”? First, I turn to God and ask with my spirit for understanding. Then, I turn to my friends and trusted family (the good ones who listen and interject helpful words of truth and encouragement). And simultaneously, I read the Scriptures for words such as those found in Psalm 25: “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”
Then my mind is cultivated, and my heart leaves the dark paths, and I am ready to write new ideas, passing on a better future, and my memes will be full of hope and truth and God’s light.
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill.
Stop stressing: Leave the big picture to God
Sometimes seeing the big picture is hard. I once heard a story, and I will tell it how I remember it, about a newly married woman. Her husband made enough money so she felt blessed that she would be able to be at the home to keep up the house, take care of future children, cook meals and do the day-to-day business of the family.
One day her husband returned home and noticed half a bag of potatoes sitting around the kitchen sink. Hearing sobs, he followed his wife’s voice until he found her. He asked, “What is wrong? What happened?” She just continued in tears unable to speak. The husband felt terrible and figured he had done something wrong.
When she composed herself and was able to speak, the woman told her husband what had happened. As she was peeling the potatoes, she started thinking about all the years she would be married. She multiplied how many potatoes she had by an approximate amount of times she would have to peel potatoes over the years. Millions of potatoes filled her mind and she was simply overwhelmed by the enormity of her commitment.
When we look at the big picture on any project or the human condition around the world it’s easy to be overtaken by a sense of helplessness. Big is big — no way around it. We want to count our lives in minutes, and then realize as we age it’s easier to tick off decades. If we counted each minute and accounted for everything we have put our hands to, we would simply shut down. While it is nice to reminisce, spending too much time on the past can leave you stuck there.
The Prophets weren’t well-liked in the old country of Israel. I think it was simply because they told people what was going to happen, and it often wasn’t good news.
God saw the end of an age and in sorrow allowed a few people to tell their friends that faith was dying and self-dependence had replaced a prayerful dependence on the Lord. Isaiah spoke God’s word, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.” God calls them to seek justice, end the evils among them, and turn back toward their original love for God’s goodness. In foreknowledge he knows of that the destruction of their nation was on the way.
I am thankful God never leaves us to wallow in our distress. Though we have times of trouble, God speaks blessings such as this, also from Isaiah’s book: “Zion will be redeemed with justice and a promise is given that in the last days,” the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”
After all the potatoes have been peeled, even after we have spent eons tending to our world, God promises to shore up our efforts with His strength. So we do all the good that we can, but also are assured that the greatest good is still coming. We remember that God walked among us 2,000 years ago, and His spirit is with us today.
This promise is for everyone who has been worried about the big picture. Anyone who has lost sleep because they see the world ending in a great fire with all lost to chaos.
God is saying to all of us: “Leave the big picture to me. I am your strength.”
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.
Bible offers nourishment to the soul
Growing up, I remember my parents telling me that it would be good for me to read my Bible.
My Bible had a soft blue cover and it appeared more worn than it should have — because all I did was bring it to church and then bring it back home. That ride in the car — in an elementary to middle school student’s hand — must have been torture on the pages. I’m pretty sure it was missing the last few pages of Revelations, as well.
I realized that my parents were happy when I read the book, and I was starting to hear more references to Scripture in Sunday school, so I decided to read something. My first choice, because my name is Daniel, was obviously Daniel. I read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego more times than I can count. Finally, I now know how to pronounce the name Nebuchadnezzar — at least I think I can. But I never really wandered out of that book at that time because the Bible was so big. It intimidated me.
So like many people, I relied on the stories told by my Sunday school teacher to make up my biblical worldview. I knew about Jonah, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and a lot about Jesus and some about Paul and his letters. But the stories weren’t connected. I still didn’t have the big picture.
I was 15 years old when I first believed in Christ, and my whole world changed. In faith, I picked up the old tattered Bible and began to read stories outside of Daniel. The gospels were my starting point, and I moved into Paul’s letters.
To be honest, it wasn’t until college and seminary that I cracked the Old Testament beyond Genesis. I peeked here and there, but it was a world I did not understand until some professors took the time to explain that world to me.
Now I read Scripture like it’s a good piece of fresh bread. It fills me up and gives me energy for the rest of my day. Each time I read through a book, I see something new. My world changes as I understand God’s story in the past and how I am connected to this world that really isn’t so different from my own.
I see Abraham today in a man leading a family that is struggling to survive. I see Joshua on the battlefield leading troops and making a home for the people of the world. I see Isaiah in a woman on television speaking against our excesses and injustice. Like in the gospels, Jesus’ disciples currently surround us. And the spirit of Paul and the early church of Acts are in the people who care for the sick and help those who have fallen somehow, telling them the good news of the kingdom of God.
Great stories of people grappling with a holy God are wrapped in the Scriptures. You don’t have to go to seminary to learn to love them. Simply open the pages and begin to read. Add a quick link to Wikipedia and a study Bible from the bookstore, and you can learn to immerse yourself.
The exploration is much better than any fantasy or sci-fi book I have ever read. The suspense holds you as you hear the world cry out for a savior. God is and was in conversation with his people in the world. That conversation is an important one for us to own for our time and for ourselves.
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.
Revolutions happening every day
With civil unrest and uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the word of the day would have to be “revolution.”
The United States came into existence through an upturning of government and the establishment of our own rule, but it has been a long time since we have thought about changing the fundamental structure of the resulting system. In my opinion, this is probably because our founders really thought things through and built so much accountability — and even localism — into how that system operates.
Every person votes, and each voice makes a difference. Not only that, but the checks and balances do tend to work, and there are good people in our country who will work tirelessly to overturn any injustices they encounter within our system.
Despite this, revolutions are not that uncommon. Every single day, there are people around you who have been oppressed by their addictions, who have lost family through bad decisions, lost hope when the world left them to drown alone or pushed them down — and yet they have found a way to overthrow those evils in their lives.
More than just New Year’s resolutions, these changes are apparent because non-functioning people suddenly begin to blossom. Takers become givers, and talkers become listeners. Worlds are upended for the better. Every person has a continuing story that never ends. How do they change? How do the hopeless suddenly find hope?
Like the Egyptians rising up to have their voices heard, there is always a point in life — and it is different for every person — in which people say, “I’m mad as (you know what), and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
The sleeper rises out of bed, makes the decision to change, and that change slowly begins to erupt. Truly, each change is a miracle.
The fact is, revolutions are part of everyday life. The big ones get our notice, but each day we decide who we want to be, and we can make our lives lean toward being better — even though “better” is often more difficult.
I remember the story in Scripture in which Jesus meets the demoniac. Within him were 1,000 demons who tormented him in spirit and in the flesh. He was such an outcast that he was living in holes with the dead, who could not push him away. In one encounter, Jesus commanded the demons to leave, and the man was able to regain his senses. He regained his dignity as a human being and wished to walk with Jesus, but Jesus sent him out to the five local cities to tell them the good news that he has been set free.
Sometimes change can be done alone in small ways. Often, a friend is needed to help us carry the load when our afflictions are too rough for us to handle. And always, we need a God who has promised love and care — who brings freedom in surprising ways every time we call out in prayer.
This is an exciting and dangerous time to live in many places in the world. But when people are ready to change for the better, it breaks open the gates and the whole world begins to change. Revolution happens all around you, every day.
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church.
Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.
Over the weekend I became terribly sick. After a good meal, the stomach flu sacrificed it all that night to the porcelain king – and I went through some cycles I always do when I get sick. First, I just felt terrible so I submitted to the experience because in sickness we rarely have true control. Second, I tried to understand what was happening. This was so I could determine if I could work the next day. As a youth minister, I love what I do, and I hate missing what I have planned. I googled everything that looked like what I had, and did some extensive research when I didn’t feel totally nauseous (and of course my awesome wife was assisting me and bringing me water and asking relatives what to do). The research, which I was hoping was just going to lead to food poisoning, ended up being “Stomach Flu” and at that determination I was to be bed-ridden for a day, eat nothing but crackers and drink electrolyte water, sleep and maybe watch some movies while feeling terrible (WHICH MIGHT RUIN THE MOVIE!).
Anyways – Despite the terrible symptoms, and the dread, and odd sleep-ish-ness … I made it. And looking back, I learned a few things about God and I.
When I’m sick:
(1) I talk to God more. I think I realize how dependent I really am…unfortunately much of the conversation is in exasperation
(2) My appetites are quelled, so I am more focused when I pray. It felt a bit like grieving. If you don’t want to eat or be entertained what do I do?
(3) I felt cared for. My wife took care of me, my best friend called, my church showed sympathy, my facebook friends wished me well, I think people prayed for me. I was wrapped in a warm blanket of goodness for a while. I hope everyone gets to feel that every once and a while.
It only lasted the weekend, and though I’m recuperating and getting used to a near normal appetite again, I hope to remember and live out some of the spiritual disciplines that became more easily to me while I was sick. Peace to you.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
-The Book of Jeremiah (29:11)
The second New Years 2011 hit, we were deluged on Twitter and Facebook with various articles on resolutions and what we’re all going to do better this year over last. Personally, I vowed not to resolve anything. For myself, resolutions are a daily thing I do with a To Do list, as I assess how I failed yesterday and humbly reassess how I’m going to do today better. It’s a part of my personal confession, and a prayer that is continuously given up and redone. But for half of Americans, New Years is a time for major change – and this year like any others, it is about changing one’s Self that is on everyone’s list. See Christian Post Article here for stats and evaluation of American Resolution.
The article has an interesting quote that struck me: “While few Americans succeed in keeping their commitments, Kinnaman noted that the bigger problem may be that Americans focus almost exclusively on themselves when wanting to experience some sort of personal change ‘rather than realizing that lasting change often comes by serving and sacrificing for others‘” (italics added for emphasis). I thought a bit about that, and since I am currently serving God at a Methodist church, which has a huge emphasis on social justice (and I looooove that), something still bothered me about the assessment. There is a component missing that makes without being said, resolutions still feel empty to me.
At last Sunday’s children’s sermon, done by an amazing parent at our church, “Resolutions” was the topic. I was struck about the part about making Self-Centered resolutions, and how we often break our promises to ourselves, but – And the message was focused on Simeon, the man who had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Savior. God had made him a promise, and in his old age, Simeon in the temple, never gave up on God’s promise – and the promise was fulfilled. The point? We often don’t fulfill our promises to our own Self, but God always keeps his. The takeaway – make some promises to others and keep them by following God’s example. A brilliantly crafted message that hits the heart of our selfishness, and puts the center on God.
I would like to emphasize the big point, and many would agree with me, that if you make a resolution, and it is not a promise that comes out of your devotion and love for God, it will not succeed. As simple and simultaneously complex as we humans are, we are not reliable creatures. We do not know the future, and our promises mean very little. God, however, knows all things, and cares for all of us, and it is only in focusing on God, the perfect one, that we become more perfected, and our resolutions (in conjunction with God’s plan for our lives) begin to make more sense.
While I do not make a resolution this year, I will say that each day, I will try to walk more closely with God, and I will rely on God’s faithfulness to help me carry out this plan for my year.
Image Source: http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~mcslab/about-research.php
Many who study human development know that as humans, we all struggle at some time or another with the identity question, “Who am I?” and how we answer that depends on a few factors. (1) Our family background and how we fit into it relationally, (2) our nature, or natural giftings, (3) the stories, wisdom, and even quips people say that we latch onto, and many others. One component I would would like to focus on, however, I didn’t even mention, and that is Music. How does Music help us orient our identity in the world?
We all have those songs or sounds that bring up old memories. An easy example is remembering when you started dating. You heard in movie that couples tend to have favorite songs, so you decided on a song that would mark the relationship. You listened to it over and over because it was the first song on the mix tape in your car. It filled the sonic spaces of your life. And then you broke up. Suddenly all you listen to is “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (jk).
What was your song? If you never dated, think of another powerful time in your life – like your first finals at college. What songs were playing when you crammed? Or your first road trip? What songs played in the car as you traveled 1,000 miles.
Now – 5 years later or more, you hear the song on the radio and a flood of memories and emotions come back. Your face is flush from remembering good and bad times. Kisses, questions, hugs, laughs, the smell your old car, everything. It all comes back, but why does it?
It seems that music, being a powerful artform, which can fill spaces and affect our emotions – also acts as a place holder for memories. Memory means stories, and stories mean identity construction and processing, and so music is intimately intertwined with who we are as people.
What was going on in your life 10 years ago/5 years ago? Don’t remember, what about when you listened to these songs:
Watch this video if you are at least 25 years old:
Watch this video if you are less than 25 years old:
If you don’t relate to either, watch this:
Regardless of the song that you related to – what were the exact moments going on in your life when you first heard these songs? Is it easier now that you have listened to some of the music from back in the day? I bet for most of you it was.
Music is a powerful force in all of our lives. I’ve written a whole paper back in my college years on how music is like a Drapery, or Art that you place on the empty spaces around you. Silence is the wall, Music is the Painting that colors our existence which we use to guide us as we navigate life. Sometimes the messages of music help guide us, sometimes the music itself is a journey that helps us get through tough times, sometimes we just want to run over the notes and fly beyond into the ether.
Conversation – Tell me your favorite song and one powerful memory associated with it.
Over the last two days, I began seeing various tweets about the decline of marriage. The first came from Christianity Today, then I noticed the New York Times had some polls going, and I saw this: Click here - Go ahead and click there and vote in the unscientific poll and you will see that around 60% of people say that marriage may pass away as our values evolve, rather than Marriage being central to a healthy society. In the public mind, there seems to be no consequence should marriage itself completely disappear.
It seems that according to that poll, and various data is also showing that Marriage is declining as a desirable norm, and that statistically, those in poorer and middle class families are more and more deciding that marriage is not in their future. Various data shows that cohabitation, single motherhood, and divorces are becoming more the norm. As a minister to youth this worries me because I see how all these things make life harder for the kids. Children who have a loving and present mother and father have a more solid foundation than children who have absent parents, parents they see only once in a while, or living with people who have no binding commitment to hold them together. Ultimately, to know who they are and develop well, children need to feel safe – relationally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
It seems that there is a growing sense of animosity towards the institution of marriage in general. Lately political battles have broken out about what marriage actually is, who can legally be married, and on television – liberation from bad marriages is a popular story mover. I suppose this is because divorce, bad marriages, and separations means more drama for the viewer. I do think this entertainment seeps into how we see our selves. Being married myself, and seeing how awesome it is, I often wonder why our culture can’t seem to get a hold of the idea of what a Good Marriage is. I
It is definitely not this simple:
But it really isn’t that hard either. The giving up of oneself for the other is the foundation living well together. I know our culture isn’t good about giving up oneself and giving unconditionally, but it is one of the most advanced moral things we can do as human beings. Going back to that poll, that talks about evolving past the value of marriage, I wonder what we would be evolving toward? What is greater than what is modeled in a good marriage? What is above Selfless Love? Again, I am worried, that we aren’t evolving towards anything – but rather, just giving in to whatever we want at any given moment without any particular ideal in mind. Experience shows, that if we don’t have an image of the ideal, people wander and while wandering – people get lost.
Now’s the perfect time to engage in the world around you
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a character on the show “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” had a catchword: “Engage.” And each new adventure began with this word.
Picard was a hard man, meaning he didn’t know how to get along with children; he had very few confidants; and he expected absolute obedience to his orders. On the other hand, his ability to take risks, think, listen to wisdom, speak boldly and adhere to a strict code of conduct revealed a disciplined charisma. When he faced touchy situations and new cultures, he was adaptable but fair. “Engage” spoke to his whole being, and embodied the show’s famous tag line, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Living life with boldness and courage is hardly an easy task. Especially in a time when most of life seems to be about avoiding risks, we build bubbles of comfort. Our well-built homes, nice cars, non-threatening office environments, and light recreation, give us a sense of security that many in the world do not experience on a daily basis. The responsibility for the most dangerous moments in our lives are delegated to others more skillfully trained: airplane pilots, who miraculously create a safe zone for us to travel at enormous speeds 30,000 feet above the ground; and firefighters and police officers, whose training allows normal folks to live with peace of mind. Our safety is quite miraculous considering how dangerous our habitat and our political context can be.
It is no wonder that the risk takers — also known as adrenaline seekers — among us take to extreme sports in an attempt to get beyond the carefully cultivated bubble. They go to far away places to climb mountains, reach new speed barriers, or find other altruistic challenges, such as building orphanages in remote parts of the world.
The International Justice Mission, formed from a group of experts not usually known for risk taking — lawyers — is an organization dedicated to bringing justice in the world. They go to volatile areas of the world where human rights are being violated.
According to the International Justice Mission’s website, the group “determines the specific source of corruption, lack of resources or lack of goodwill in the system denying victims the protection of their legal systems. In collaboration with local authorities, IJM addresses these specific points of brokenness to meet the urgent needs of victims of injustice.”
In the spirit of Isaiah 1:17, they “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Their efforts to end slavery in the modern world show their dedication to stepping out of the bubble, and seeing the bigger picture — which means challenge beyond normal routines.
As Advent begins, and the Christian world begins anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth, risk takes on a new light: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”– which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, NIV).
God left the comfort of the heavens, and became a human being, lived among us and gave everything so we could see what love looks like.
This risky love is quite reckless in its abandonment of safety and inspires many to go and change the world for good. Great leaders know that with every goal, no matter how calculated, there is always a great deal of faith involved in its accomplishment.
As we look toward Christmas, let’s remember the God who challenges our comfort, and wants us to “Engage” our world in new and exciting ways. Let’s step beyond our personal threshold, and reach out to the needs of others, even in a dangerous world.
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.