“The Power of Introverts”

TED is a great place for ideas and inspiration. And, as a communicator, I like to watch them to inspire me to be a better communicator. In fact, I’ve recently started watching TED Talks while walking on the treadmill (at least once a week) as part of my strategy to grow as a communicator. TED Talks generally last 18 minutes or less.

This week, I watched Susan Cain give a great talk based on her new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. You can watch the video here: The power of Introverts. This is a message that both introverts and extroverts need to hear!

Here are some quotes that particularly struck me …

Solitude matters, and for some people it is the air that they breathe. And, in fact, we have known for centuries about the transcendent power of solitude. It’s only recently that we’ve strangely begun to forget it.

Citing the role of solitude in major religions, Cain suggests, “no wilderness, no revelations.” In fact, one of my favorite verses is Luke 5.16: “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”

At the end of her TED Talk, Cain offered some calls to actions. She said, “Stop the madness for constant group work,” both in workplaces and also in schools. I totally agree! Cain notes, while students need to learn to work together, they also need to learn to work on their own. The trend in seminars and conferences we’ve attended is to include more small group discussion time. Frankly, when I spend a lot of money to attend a conference, I’d rather listen to the presenter(s) than chat with others in small group discussion. A little is okay, but too often, it’s overdone!

Cain also challenged listeners, “Go to the wilderness … have your own revelations.” Cain suggested, “We could all stand to unplug and get inside our own heads a little more often.”

The world can be a very noisy place. With the astronomical growth of social media in the last decade, it’s harder than ever to find solitude. And yet, the need for solitude is as necessary as ever!

Great advice from Susan Cain!

Prayers for the Church: Power

The Church needs power!

I’m writing a series of prayers for the Church, offering a prayer on a different topic each week. So far, I’ve prayed for awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, action, and unity.

Jesus said …

you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses … (Acts 1.8, CEB)

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church …

My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2.4-5, CEB).

O God, thank you for empowering your Church to be your hands and feet in the world!

Remind us that we can do nothing without you, and that we depend on you to be who you call us to be and to do what you call us to do!

Forgive us for relying too much on ourselves and not enough on you. Help us depend on you fully!

Pour out your Spirit upon your Church. Saturate, consume, and overwhelm us with your presence!

Empower us for the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! In the words of Acts 4.29-30 (CEB), “enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence. Stretch out your hand to bring healing and enable signs and wonders to be performed through the name of Jesus, your holy servant.”

And, may it all be done for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ! Amen.

5 Children’s Books for Family Devotions

Our most important responsibility as parents is discipling our children!

While we can always do better, it is something we’ve been intentional about from the beginning. Some of our previous posts include: Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, Praying for Your Children, Family Devotion, Teaching Kids to Pray, and “Praying Circles Around Your Children” (these last two were written in the last three weeks).

In the Family Devotion post, I listed a few books we were using two years ago. But, our list has grown, so here is an updated list of the resources we use for family devotions

My First Read And Learn Favorite Bible Verses (Mary Manz Simon)
This was probably our first devotional book. For the first few years, we read through it over and over again, about two weeks, at a time. These days, we prefer Bible story books, so we don’t use this one as much as we used to, but we occasionally pull it out.

Children of God Storybook Bible (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
We like this Bible storybook because of the international flavor. The writers and illustrators come from many different nations, and the stories reflect their native context.

The Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones)
This is another a nice Bible storybook. The stories are well-done and the artwork is appealing. This is one of the kids’ favorite Bible story books.

Jesus Calling Bible Storybook (Sarah Young)
We just added this book to our collection within the last week. It looks like a great Bible storybook. We’ve only read a few stories, so far, but I expect it to become another family favorite.

Psalms for Young Children (Marie-Helen Delval)
We also just added this one. This book will be a good way to pass on our love for the Psalms. There are only a few verses of each Psalm, and not all of the Psalms are included. It is a “selection of Psalms, paraphrased for young readers.”

We go through one Bible storybook at a time, reading a story each night during our family devotional time just before putting the kids to bed.

We’re in the process of starting a new devotional practice — reading a Psalm and praying together before school. We just started this practice this morning. I’m sure it will be challenging, at times, but we’ll do our best!

If you’ve found a great resource for family devotions or want to share a favorite family devotional practice, please let us know by leaving a comment!

“Praying Circles Around Your Children”

Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson is a great resource for parents who want to pray for their kids!

Last year, I read The Circle Maker, also by Mark Batterson. I wrote several posts about it; the last one includes links to all of the posts in the series (see 5 Takeaways From “The Circle Maker”). The book is inspired by the story of Honi the circle maker. I’m also looking forward to the upcoming release of The Circle Maker for Kids (edited to say, we love this kids’ storybook!).

Batterson says parents will naturally make a lot of mistakes. He writes, “You’ll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent.”

Prayer makes all the difference. Batterson challenges, “Make sure the heavenly Father hears about your kids daily!”

Batterson focuses on five areas: circling the promises of God, making prayer lists, creating prayer mantras, forming prayer circles, and praying through the Bible.

Batterson states …

Prayer is the way we write the future. It’s the difference between letting things happen and making things happen.

Throughout the book, Batterson offers a number of practical ways parents can pray for and pray with their children, including 10-minute devotions before school, keeping a prayer journal, writing prayers and circling promises in a copy of the Bible for each child to give to them before they go to college, as well as other examples.

It’s not just about praying for kids; it’s also about teaching kids to pray. Batterson contends …

One of the greatest responsibilities of parenthood is praying for your kids, but an even greater responsibility is teaching your kids to pray. Don’t just pray for them; pray with them. Praying for your kids is like taking them for a ride; praying with your kids is like teaching them to drive.

Praying for your children is essential. And, it has long-term effects.

Your prayers will shape the destiny of your family for generations to come.

May God help us surround our kids with prayer, and raise them up to be mighty in prayer!

How do you pray for, and pray with, your children?

The Holy Club’s Accountability Questions

Lent is an ideal time for personal reflection and self-examination. It’s also a great time to remember the importance of accountability.

Recently, I came across a list of twenty-one daily accountability questions used by John and Charles Wesley during their days in the Holy Club at Oxford University.

It’s a pretty intense list of reflective questions.

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence? Can I be trusted?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  10. Do I pray about money I spend?
  11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  12. Do I disobey God in anything?
  13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publicans?
  19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward, or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  20. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

Nearly three centuries later, it’s still a pretty good list of questions for self-examination!

Celebrating 5 Years With Ethan!

Five years ago today, Ethan joined our family!

Of course, Ethan, 8-months-old then, joined our family reluctantly, at the time. We had just met him in his foster home the day before. From there, he adjusted very quickly!

We celebrated his “gotcha day” last night by going to Fun Central, a local indoor play area. The kids played. We ate dinner. The kids played some more before we went home. After we got ready for bed, we read a photo book we put together last year called, “The Story of Ethan’s Adoption” (we also read Sarah’s story because she wanted us to).

We continue to give thanks for God’s blessings on our family!

Prayers for the Church: Unity

The Church needs unity!

I’m writing a series of prayers for the Church, offering a prayer on a different topic each week. So far, I’ve prayed for awakening, transformational leaders, urgency, hope, health, compassion, and action.

In John 17, Jesus prayed for all who would ever follow him …

I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me. (John 17.21-23, Common English Bible)

Jesus prayed we would be one, perfectly one.

O God, when you created humankind, you said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. You desire to be in relationship with us, your creation. We are amazed, and grateful.

Thank you for inviting us to live in relationship with you and with others. You want us to live in unity and community, focused on loving you and our neighbors. You want us, with one heart and mind, to be engaged in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Help us to do life together, to not be so independent, self-absorbed, and self-sufficient. Make us one with you, and one with each other. Make us one so the world will know Jesus is God’s Son and that he is the Savior of the world!

Amen.

“You Only Have to Die”

Leading transformation is hard work. And, according to James Harnish, the cost is great!

Several years ago, we read You Only Have to Die in a Doctor of Ministry class at Asbury Theological Seminary. Harnish is pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, Florida.

The book is written on the premise, “Hope is born when we are willing to die for the right things” (11). Harnish argues, “The only way that leads to life is the way that leads through death” (11).

Changing the world and transforming our communities starts with personal, heart transformation, and commitment.

The key to becoming a Spirit-energized, people-loving, life-giving, community-transforming congregation is really very simple. All you have to do is be willing to die. (21)

The cost is high because there’s always resistance to change. Harnish states, “Transformation is always difficult. Change always brings stress. The way that leads to life is always hard” (45).

Transformational leaders must be courageous. And they must clearly, and continually, cast vision.

Harnish points out, “As long as a congregation’s mission is vague or undefined, people can get along pretty well by pretending that the church is what they believe it to be” (47). He goes on to note, however, when you begin to cast the vision for God’s mission, it forces people to choose whether or not to support the vision.

Harnish writes a chapter on the importance of prayer in the process of transformation. He asserts, “The primary means by which God removes the heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh is disciplined, listening, obedient prayer” (91).

Harnish describes prayer in the transformational process …

Prayer is the process by which we bring our lives, our ministry, and our mission into proper relationship with the redemptive purpose of God revealed in Jesus Christ so that our life together becomes a translucent center of loving power for the transformation of the world. (98)

Because leading change and transformation is hard work, it requires persistent prayer. Harnish contends, “Prayer that makes a difference hangs on, holds on, and refuses to give in until God’s kingdom has come and God’s will has been done” (101).

Leading change is hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. Harnish suggests, “The critical question in most mainline, long-established churches is how willing we are to change our methods in order to fulfill our mission” (130).

Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20.21). We are followers of Jesus Christ, sent to change the world! Are we willing to lay down our lives and pay the price in order to transform churches that will, in turn, transform our communities?

Teaching Kids to Pray

One of the most important things parents do is teach their children valuable skills they’ll use throughout their lives. “Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it.” (Proverbs 22.6, CEB).

There’s no greater skill than praying!

As parents, we want our kids to have a vital relationship with God. And, prayer is a key to the realization of that hope!

But teaching kids to pray is hard. There’s no “10 easy steps to teach kids how to pray” or “90-day strategy.” It’s a lifelong process. In fact, as disciples of Jesus (students, learners, apprentices), we’re still learning ourselves!

Some days are rough. Some days, the kids won’t settle down and be still while we pray. But occasionally there are glimpses of hope. I saw three glimpses this week.

On Sunday morning, I began the day by praying and preparing for Sunday’s worship service. Immediately, Ethan knelt next to me. It didn’t last long, but we prayed a couple of verses we’ve been memorizing, including, “Teach me your way, Lord, so that I can walk in your truth. Make my heart focused only on honoring your name” (Psalm 86.11, CEB).

Then, on Monday night, as I was dealing with an illness, and preparing to sleep on the couch, Sarah checked on me. I invited her to pray for me. Sarah, who’s three, said, “I will tomorrow.” I encouraged her to pray right then, and she prayed a meaningful prayer.

During devotion a couple of nights ago, we reviewed our memory verses. Afterward, Ethan offered to lead us through one. We weren’t sure where he was headed, but he proceeded to lead us through a simple prayer, phrase by phrase.

It is often said some things are better caught than taught.

We pray during our evening family devotion just before bedtime. We pray at mealtimes. Occasionally, there may be other opportunities, but those are the primary times. One day, a couple of years ago, I was home with the kids one afternoon while Joleen was returning from an out-of-town meeting. I suggested we pray before the kids’ afternoon naps. Ethan said, “Now? We don’t pray now!”

We teach prayer by what we do and also what we don’t do. It’s a challenging reminder to pray often, and when we do pray, to not go on autopilot by relying on tired clichés or formulaic statements.

Not only are we disciples of Jesus, but our kids are apprentices of us. God has given us the awesome responsibility of training them up in the way they should go.

If you’re a parent or a grandparent, what are your children or grandchildren catching from you?

If you’ve made some discoveries through your own trial and error, please leave a comment!