Finding Stories that Teach Us

As a follow up to our most recent episode – ITN #75: Lighting Fires and Leaking Buckets – I wanted to highlight another great podcast.

Out of the Ordinary Books with Lisa-Jo Baker and Christie Purifoy highlight books and authors in each episode that help us on our journey as parents, followers, and humans. They totally get the idea that the right stories can help us find our own place in the story of God and life. Go check them out and be Out-of-the-Ordinary!

Helping Your Kids Reflect Rather Than Pose

Yesterday should have been a podcast Tuesday.  However, with the busyness of camps and vacations and an unexpected quarantine, we are a little off schedule. 

We’ll return to our normally scheduled Is That Normal? Podcast schedule in a couple weeks. In the meantime, I’ve got a few thoughts and a challenge for you. 

In our Instagram society, it’s easy to run through life looking for the next cute post. Just take out your camera and point it at a young person and they are ready to pose! (I actually think I saw someone this week whose face was permanently frozen in their selfie face pose – you know the one, lips pursed, head tilted slightly down.)

But as we come out of the summer, I find this is a great time to reflect rather than pose. To take time and inventory the significant moments of the season. To record spiritual milestones. To cherish family bonding. To evaluate personal growth. And then to look to the future. To set goals for the next season. And finally to take some breaths. To watch some sunsets and enjoy the noises of summer nights. To rest in the moment. 

And parents it’s our job to model for our children and lead them to these habits. 

So here’s the challenge – buy some journals (Yes, real paper journals…and some cool pens!) and set aside some time for you and your family to reflect on their summer. And when you’re done, share highlights with each other over ice cream!

As you do this activity, May it lead you all closer to God and closer to each other. Until next time, Be Abnormal! 

For Further Reading: Can’t Even…

For Episode 70: What To Do When Your Kids Come Back!, we used Anne Helen Petersen’s book Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation for some of our research.

This well-researched commentary opens a perspective-changing window into the challenges for the millennial generation. Written frankly by a millennial, it tells of some of the cultural and systemic factors that have led to the current generational situation. Petersen did a great job of peeling back the layers of older generation’s gripes and seeing some of the shared problems facing our society.

For those of us called to love and influence the next generations, this book offers insight into understanding the why’s behind the economic, relational, spiritual, emotional, and moral concerns – many of which might surprise you. May we continue to pursue understanding others that we might better offer love and truth to them!

I Recommend…

We live in what they call the “Recommendation Age”. The volume of information and options we have at our fingertips is mind-boggling. So we need others to help us curate what we read, wear, watch, eat, and care about!

Over the years of being a leader, pastor, and now podcaster, I’ve found myself more and more often being one of those curators. I often hear myself saying, “I recommend [insert relevant book or resource here].” Recently, I’ve caught myself particularly recommending a few books over and over again. I find these books personally, spiritually, and parentally helpful.

So if you are looking for a good read or resource, I particularly recommend:

These three books have challenged and shaped my thinking on some of the most pressing and important issues of raising my children for Christ in our current culture. Check one of them out this week.

The Power of “I Don’t Know?!?!”

We love interacting with and helping parents, but we don’t have it all figured out. We run into roadblocks, challenges, and failures with the young people in our lives all the time.

One thing we often mention is how important communication is with young people – learning how to listen, ask the right questions, be available. But I [Mark] have one particular young person in my household who challenges that all of the time. When I ask open ended questions to foster communication and relationship, I often get the answer “I don’t know?”. I’ve had to figure out better and different strategies (and employ a lot of patience) to continue fostering open communication with this child.

We are still learning, and we want to share that journey with you so you can learn along with us. The famous aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun once said, “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” And that attitude got us to the moon! So don’t let the “I don’t know”s make you feel like a failure; let’s turn those around!

I was reading in 1 Corinthians this week and chapter 2 reminds us that we are to be “explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.” (vs 13). However, we cannot do that by our wisdom, but we must humbly seek the wisdom that only comes from God. So here are three steps to take this week as you continue raising your children for Christ:

  • Be honest. Don’t be afraid to admit when you know! Humility begets openness from others.
  • Search together. As we or our children have questions about faith, life, our world, or their struggles, we must foster a culture where we search for the answers in the right place. Take your children on that journey with you. When you are a part of the process, you own the answer.
  • Make it spiritual. Our ultimate goal is not just to have fully-functioning, self-sufficient humans, but to lead our children to live surrendered lives following Christ the King. Pray for and with your children. Share Scripture with your children. Talk about your spiritual journey. Ask them about their spiritual journey. And welcome questions about their faith, because that means they are thinking about spiritual things. And that is the goal!

We’d love to connect with you and be on the journey with you. You can comment on this post, reach out to us through our Facebook or Instagram accounts, or email us direct at connect@isthatnormal.org. Until next time, Be Abnormal!

A Great Resource: Robert Morgan’s “Moments for Families with Prodigals”

Here at the Is That Normal? Podcast, we are always looking for great resources to help engaged parents.

Rob Morgan’s book Moments for Families with Prodigals is a fantastic source of encouragement for us as we wrestle through our children’s journey of faith.  It contains over one hundred short devotional thoughts from Scripture to help us stay grounded in truth and focused on hope. 

In case you missed it, check out our episode 63 – Should You Die On That Hill? where we mention Rob’s book and discuss the tensions of dealing with our children’s doubts.

Losing Your Religion One Year Later

Last April on Episode 23 of our podcast, we discussed the phenomenon of YouTube celebrities and particularly looked at the deconversion from Christianity stories of Rhett and Link, who had shared those stories on their podcast EarBiscuits.

Just a few weeks ago, Rhett and Link each took turns sharing their “one year later” stories, particularly sharing and critiquing the intersection of faith with the cultural occurrences of 2020. You can listen to Rhett’s updated story here and Link’s here, although I again would caution you in letting your children listen to it.

That being said, I believe as parents and Christians it would be good for us to listen to these stories. These are two guys who were not just casually attending church, but involved in leadership, discipleship, and evangelism. They were engaged with the church and faith in the way we would hope our children and young adults would be. So I think it is important for us to hear some of their turning points and criticisms so we can help our own children navigate them.

Here are a few of the big issues I heard them bring up:

  • That Christianity is an ideology. They often described Christianity as a set of beliefs to govern our lives. They also pointed out that the vein of Christianity they were involved in put a lot of emphasis on intellectualism and knowledge. Rhett particularly stated that his walk away from faith was one of rational decisions about what he thought was true (More on that in a minute). The concern I see with this point is that, while God gave us a brain to know and understand things, He also gave us His Son and His Spirit so we could know a real and personal God who is near us and wants a relationship with us. God isn’t an impersonal rule-maker or a philosophy to be understood. He is real and that reality must be pointed out and lived out in front of our children.
  • That truth is something I must discover and decide. Modern and Post-modern thought has said we are the finder and creator of what is true. In that worldview, man is the ultimate authority. This concept is heard loudly in these guys’ story. The problem with this viewpoint is the finite and flawed nature of man. We cannot be the originator of truth. We must look to a source and authority outside of ourself. Just because I think or feel something, doesn’t make it true.
  • That the response of the church to social justice and cultural issues is uncaring. There have been so many difficult and divisive situations occur over the last year. Rhett and Link both point out that in many of these Christians have seemed to either be silent or on the opposite side of caring about marginalized people. I think this one is a very complex criticism. Yes, there are those examples out there of those claiming Christ who have said and done awful things. Also, I agree that there is a level of apathy in the Western church, and we definitely have room to learn and grow. However, I also have seen glowing examples of churches caring for those who are vulnerable. So, to this point I would say we should own and confess our shortcomings, admitting our imperfection. And then we should point everyone to a perfect Savior, who has agreed to deal with my and your sins for the bringing of ultimate peace!

We want to encourage you to keep living in the tension of faith and culture with the young people in your life. Love them. Be patient with them. Talk them through these pitfalls and keep pointing them to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. Be Abnormal!