Mental Illness and Real Life

 

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Between the high profile suicide of Robin Williams, a tragic loss of a hilarious and fine actor, as well as the awareness being built surrounding the tragedy of Rick Warren’s son, , mental Illness has been on the Christian radar a lot as of late.

This struggle hits close to home for myself and my family, as my wife has struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) since a very traumatic event in her life 12 years ago.  I will not share specifics but know that she was traumatized and had to relive that trauma multiple times in a short period of time where she almost took her own life, like Williams and Warren did do.

Not only is it a struggle to live with such trauma, but it is almost equally a struggle to be a Christian believer and live with the expectations, imposed from both inside and out.  It can be difficult for other Christians to understand the plight of someone with a mental illness, but a good portion of the population of America struggles with it in one form or another and it is important for people to speak up and speak for those with mental illnesses.

My wife thought it was time to speak up and add her voice as one that can understand and advocate with those who struggle with PTSD and other mental illnesses.  She wrote a great post I wanted to share here so that you, fine reader, can get help or help someone with a mental illness.  You are not alone in this struggle, and my wife speaks beautifully to that in her post over at Our Bit of Chaos.

Click on the post title to read my wife’s post: …Robin Williams…Mental Illness…and Real Life…

 

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Re:View – Summer Movie Series

Film Reel Friday

 

I wanted to get the Film Reel Friday post in early this week to announce a new chapter in the 13Past1 universe.  Last summer, I kicked around being able to get into a summer movie series where we can gather together and talk about the themes and narratives that shape the movies we watch.  I believe that the movies we watch are not just mindless entertainment, but the movies and TV shows that we watch are preaching something to us.  As a Christian I believe that every time we tune in to the big screen or small screen we can keep our minds and our hearts turned on to analyze and determine what those stories are telling us.

Martin Scorsese famously said of the silver screen, to paraphrase, that movie theaters are modern day churches.  Nowadays that expands to include what we see on TV. With the dawn of HBO, AMC, USA, and other cable networks bringing us epic, movie-like shows in the vein of Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and the Sopranos, it is more like our screens, big and small alike, are the modern day church.  In our expandingly de-churched society, movie theaters and living rooms are becoming the dominant place where people in American culture go to sit quietly, listen attentively, and discuss afterwards what they just saw.  It is no coincidence that Sunday nights are a growing area of syndication for shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones (arguably the two most popular shows on TV).  TV and movies have become our preferred form of Sabbath after a long hard week of work.  The small/big screen has become our modern day pulpit.

All that being said, as a Christian, I believe it is part of our daily worship and discipleship not to unplug from media, but to engage it in order not only to see and hear what the culture at large values and loves, but also to draw what is good and what is not from movies and TV.  We can gain valuable insight not only into where the good news of Jesus Christ can speak to the culture, but also where we can find the truth of the gospel in what we watch.  Everything from sacrifice and love in Frozen to depravity and sin in Reservoir Dogs, there are kernels and full blossoms of God’s image and God’s truth in the stories we watch and listen to.

This is the heart behind adding the Re:View posts and section to 13Past1.  Re:View’s mission is, “reviewing movies with God in view.”  I am hoping this can come to fruition in movie reviews, YouTube reviews, and in the start of the Re:View podcast by the end of this summer.

In the meantime, I have begun the setup and execution with the help of my friend, Dick McCarthy, to bring to you the Re:View Summer Movie Series!  We’re launching four viewings over the summer months to watch a major motion picture, eat popcorn, and then discuss said movie and how this connects to our lives, experiences, faith, and God.  You can see the poster below for more details on our first event on June 13th and you can also click the poster to be taken to the brand new Re:View landing page on this sight.  Thanks for the support you have shown me in this endeavor and I am really excited to be launching into the next season of fun here at 13Past1!

Re-View Summer Movie Series Announcement - Frozen (1)

Make sure to follow 13Past1 on Facebook or follow Josh on Twitter to get updates on all the posts and Re:View events for this summer!

Along the Way: Some More Thoughts on Everyday Evangelism

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Last time I tackled the “Along the Way” series, I shared some of the guiding principles I use with my kids as I disciple them in everyday life with the gospel. I promise I have a lot more to say, however I felt like what I shared needed some additional clarification and more thoughts that add on to what I said.

A lot of times articles and books and conferences on raising kids seems like a bunch of rosy principles and is lacking on the whole real life, in the trenches, backstage kind of stuff. We return/finish the book freshly pressed with a load of new knowledge and fresh vigor to engage our children and raise them into the super-children they were destined to be. All of it quickly goes nuclear when your daughter is screaming at you to stop talking to her as little flecks of animal cracker spatter your face. Tragically, we are left with the warm, molten lump of our good intentions and we delete their application for Mensa.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with a lot of the material available to parents (although there are some that are extremely unhelpful and should be avoided).  There are a lot of fantastic books that offer a lot of solid wisdom and principles when it comes to parenting your children.  What I am a lot more concerned about is how our hearts as parents interact with that material and how we apply it to our children.  Oftentimes, and I am guilty of this just like you probably are, of taking those things as inerrant rules and trying to take the square peg material and hopelessly jamming it into the circular hole that is your child’s mind and heart.  What we fail and  have failed to do is consider that everyone’s children, as well as each individual child of yours, has different hopes, fears, personalities, reactions, and behaviors.  If we are shooting for just a cookie cutter response to modify our children’s behavior, we are potentially missing out at getting to their heart and allowing the gospel to change their behavior from the inside out.

However, there is so much more to sharing the gospel with your kids than telling it to them whenever and however you feel like it. In the midst of the everyday struggles of being a parent, there are spiritual realities that motivate and shape how you share the gospel with them. Discipling your kids with the good news of Jesus Christ takes work on your part to understand and navigate your child’s heart, as well as yours, and to pray against the schemes of Satan and sin that will seek to side-track and derail repentance and gospel growth.

As I struggled through the questions of discipling my kids and raising them to follow Christ, the very first thing I found that I needed to do was to not leap into it right away, but be praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal the hearts of my children to me.  Just like we spend time asking the Spirit to reveal our idols and expose where there is a need for growth, so to we need to ask the Spirit to help us understand our children’s personalities, their hopes and fears (potential idols), their hearts and minds (how the process information), and their reactions to our discipline and to our gentle rebukes.  Just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians to receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 1:17), we can pray that the Spirit is able to uniquely speak the truth of the gospel through us in a way that our kids will understand.

“I consider myself to be the Apostle Paul and I am observing the Athens landscape of my kids’ hearts in order to find connecting points for the gospel message”

For example, it is a normal routine for my wife and I to ask the kids questions that can delve deeper into these things.  I will ask about their days at school, who they played with, what happened during the day, what their friends say and do, what their teachers say and do, and what others think about one another.  These are all ways to find out more about what they think about what goes on in their lives.  Children will readily make their opinions known and it can be easy to draw out what they think about how someone else acted or why they did something to someone else.  Also, I will observe how they interact when I pick them up from school, how they interact at church gathering, with friends, with family, and with strangers.  I consider myself to be the Apostle Paul and I am observing the Athens landscape of my kids’ hearts in order to find connecting points for the gospel message (Acts 17).  When we asks questions, observe, and process them in prayer, we can find plots to plant gospel seeds that can blossom in their hearts as they hear the good news and begin to follow Jesus for themselves.

As the good news sinks in and you share it with your little ones, I cannot stress enough that this is never a simple path and that it must be saturated in prayer.  Not only does prayer help us to hear from the Spirit and help us open our kids hearts and minds, but it is a very real weapon in the battle against our Enemy, Satan.  Evangelism and discipleship are not just a head and heart issue, but it is also a battle being waged on the spiritual plane.  Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that those who are disobeying God are actively serving the spirit of this world, which is ruled by the “prince of the power of the air”, who is Satan (Ephesians 2:2-3).  Satan is called the Deceiver (Revelation 12:9) and the “father of lies” (John 8:44).  Your kids will be just as vulnerable as anyone else to the devious schemes of Satan to deceive our hearts and enslave us to the spirit of the age.

When we started sharing the gospel with our kids regularly in our discipline and our times as a family, we started off pretty well.  However, a couple of weeks in, Micah, our oldest son, started bucking against everything we did and said and was just terrible night in and night out.  It was really exhausting and wore me down to frustration and started to effect how Tina and I dealt with the kids.  It was only after confessing our need to others to pray for us and praying ourselves that we have seen the hostility subside and I can truthfully say Micah has been a lot better as of late.  It was then I started to see how Satan really is prowling around like a lion to devour those who are susceptible (1 Peter 5:8).  It was only when we picked up the Sword of the Spirit (God’s word) and prayed in the Spirit that we saw the battle turn in our favor.  Parents, please do not neglect this important aspect of evangelism with your kids (and others) that we are waging a spiritual battle and to depend on the Spirit in prayer.

“We can plant the seeds of the gospel and water them as we disciple our kids, but it is God who will give the growth.”

Satan is also able to play to our hearts because by nature we are fallen creatures who have rebelled against God and chosen our own way.  Since the fall in the garden, our sinful hearts are of a fleshly nature and we long to fulfill are own desires and our hearts are stubbornly for ourselves (Psalm 81:12).  If your kids are not-yet-believers and still hearing the truths of the gospel for the first time, their hearts will not always be inclined to hear what you are telling them.  We must be prepared to meet opposition from our children directly and realize that the gospel seeds can and will take a long time to germinate in their hearts and make the long journey from their heard to their heart.  Our efforts at times might seem fruitless and frustrating, but I want to encourage you that it is not up to us, but if we can plant the seeds of the gospel and water them as we disciple our kids, but it is God who will give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).  Take heart, depend on God, and avoid the temptation to allow your frustration to overtake you and lead you to depend on your efforts for gospel growth.

It is way too easy to start depending on our own efforts and the words we use to “convert” our kids instead of trusting the Spirit to do that work.  When we take the gospel truth and we turn those words into a rod we use to beat our kids with that truth (I am guilty of this), the gospel loses its power and become merely a hollow law for our kids to obey in order to appease us.  That is not gospel but is the very religion Jesus sought to rebuke.  How dubious and terrifying it is that not just our kids’ hearts can stubbornly follow their own way, but we as parents can take the liberating truths of Christ and turn them into rules and laws for our kids to obey to get our approval and modify their behavior.

God have mercy on me for the times I have done this!  The gospel is not a list of rules, but is a story and a message that is liberating and transformative message that takes our hard and stubborn hearts and softens them to give us new desires to follow God and have relationship with Him through the person and work of His son, Jesus Christ! (Romans 1:16-17)  Speak that truth to them and allow the Spirit to work in their hearts, just as he did in yours!

Parents, fight the good fight, pray for your kids and proclaim the gospel in both thought, word, and deed and you will begin to see fruit and set a foundation in speaking and acting out of love for what God has done for them through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  I am praying for you and for the legacy you can set!

Church Planting Internship Update

InternHey everyone that could possibly care.  Thanks for sticking around and waiting three months in order to hear from me and how it is going.  So much has happened in a short period of time there is no way to get fully caught up.

I’m fresh off my first preached sermon in over a year, which is quite far along in the internship process.  It was nice to prep a sermon again and deliver it, and I did alright despite deciding to preach with limited notes and having a tough time when I FORGOT my introduction.  (DOH!).  At least David hasn’t punished me by serving him coffee every morning or driving to Starbucks to get him a Soy Milk Sugar-Free Caramel Mocha before I head to work.

These first couple of months being a part of Appleton Gospel have been some of the best months that Tina and I and the kids have had in our entire family life.  Appleton Gospel is serious about being a family that treasures and values the Gospel, loves people, and loves our city. God answered a heap of prayers by bringing us to Appleton and being a part of the movement of the Gospel in the Fox Valley.

We recently ended out second Learning Community weekend for Missional leaders and we’re excited to start revving up the engine of planting a church.  I am working on a missional community plan for our target area (which remains top secret due to us not wanting to get ahead of the Spirit) and will be continuing to soak up the culture of Appleton Gospel and the Midpark MC we are a part of.  It is so exciting and I can’t tell you how hard it is to not let all my excitement and straegizing spill out on these pages.  More of that in the future.

If you are in the mood and available, on March 30th I will be preaching from our Kingdom Project series again and hopefully you can join us to learn about living in the Kingdom where Jesus is King!  Thanks for staying tuned in and I’ll update you with some more stuff in the near future!

Check out Appleton Gospel and find out more about what we’re doing in Appleton

Check out the first plant to be birthed from Appleton Gospel, Mercy Road Church, led by Jed Haas, a cool guy with a huge heart for Jesus Christ.

Hate Your Neighbor on Halloween; Give Them A Bible Tract (How to Fake Obedience to Jesus on Halloween)

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Today is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  It is that once a year magic of Halloween where kids dress up in their favorite TV characters, favorite monster, or pretty much anything that gives them the appropriate cultural security clearances to accept free candy from neighbors, local businesses, churches, and school-approved functions.

Dressing up is awesome.  I remember my favorite costumes of dressing up as Don Majkowski, the year I dressed as Kung Lao from Mortal Kombat (so cool), or the year I went as the devil and my brother was cookie monster (the picture is a classic, I wish I still had it).

Even better than dressing up is getting a chance to give candy to kids and get to speak to your neighbors.  I met more neighbors in our area last year through Halloween than any other single day of the year.  My son and I sat on the sidewalk by our house and were able to bless our neighborhood with hot chocolate and it was really cool to get to talk to people and enjoy a little conversation on a chilly night.

And the candy…the pounds and pounds of candy.  I have a particular jones for Milk Duds and Laffy Taffy.  Mmmmm…Laffy Taffy.

However, there is one thing that drives me absolutely crazy about Halloween that I need to get off my chest.  No, I am not talking about the ultra-revealing and highly inappropriate costumes that are sold to women and girls every single year.  I am not talking about the safety of the day or the pranks that are pulled by middle and high school kids on un-suspecting neighbors and teachers.  Nope, I am talking about the annoying practice of stuffing Halloween-themed Bible tracts into the plastic pumpkins of un-suspecting kids.

I make no apologies for saying that this is one of the stupidest things that a disciple of Jesus Christ can do and I would contend that it is less loving than *gasp* dressing up as the devil.   Not only is this highly ineffective at actually making disciples of Jesus, it is a practice that unhelpfully goes against the grain of evangelism  It also sends out a message that not only do we not love our neighbors, but that we don’t really like them, either.  I know a lot of people are going to bristle at the suggestion that handing out evangelism tracts is a stupid idea, but I challenge you to convince me that it is actually a loving gesture.

I find it to be a picture of laziness in our walk with Christ and a self-justification that we checked off evangelism on our obedience check list and pat ourselves on the back for “redeeming” this “Devil’s holiday”.  When we just slap a tract on the back of the fun-size Butterfinger we’re not making disciples, we’re drawing up cultural battle lines and not bothering to think that, instead of creating a hostile thin red line between us and those that “celebrate” Halloween, Jesus just might want us to obey his Word and to “do the work of an evangelist” and cross that line in order to start some not-yet-Christians on the journey to becoming followers of Jesus.

Evangelism is NOT an information blast on a tiny piece of paper, an extemporaneous conversation, or an 1800’s style camp-meeting, although all of those things can and have served as mediums for evangelism.  Evangelism is a sharing of the good news, which is a pillar of and an avenue for making disciples of Jesus Christ.  To limit our evangelism and the sharing of the good news with our neighbors and their children to a silly tract in a pillow case is not just ineffective disciple-making, but it is lazy and borders on being disobedient.  Jesus didn’t invite us in to his family to pass out tracts, he drafted us into his spiritual army to get right into the thick of the action.  Tract passing is propaganda work; real evangelism is getting into the trenches of our community and the muck and mess of people lives and speaking the good news of God reconciling us to Himself through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Lastly, I know quite a few people who have gotten those tracts in their bags.  I have never heard a person say that they enjoyed receiving that.  Usually it is good for a laugh and trying to think about who gave it to them, and then it is quickly tossed in the trash.  If this is the case (and my circumstantial evidence is just that but I am positive others have similar stories) then why are we wasting our time with this and why aren’t we moving on to embracing “new” ways of evangelizing and making disciples on Halloween (and every other day for that matter).

Let’s follow Jesus’ command to GO and MAKE disciples and STOP printing and stuffing useless Halloween tracts that don’t MAKE disciples but only FAKE spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Serving and Discipling on the Move

As some of you may know, our family recently made the transition from living in Waukesha, Wisconsin to Appleton, Wisconsin (about a two-hour drive north).  On top of that, I still don’t have a job up in Appleton, so I continue to work down here in Waukesha while my family lives up in Appleton.  I split my time and sleep Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights with my parents down here in Waukesha and Wednesday nights and the weekend I am back up in Appleton.  This has given me a lot of time to reflect on how one stays faithful to discipling in the transitions and over distances.  It is not nearly as effective as actually being there (obviously) but I wanted to share some of what I have been learning about serving others and being an effective disciple-maker during transitions.

Technology is Your Friend – Keep the Communication Lines Open

We live in an insanely privileged time.  Cell phones and the internet have made communication among people instant and global.  While we should be cautious in how embrace and consume said technology, it is a huge blessings to be able to stay in touch.  The nice thing is that we can continue relationships of distance with very few differences.  Use your phone and email to stay in touch and keep in communication about everyday life, your struggles, your prayers, and your ups and downs.  Usually when we are close to people, most of our texting, emailing and calling is all strictly important stuff that needs to be taken care of.  Take those risks with people you love and text them something incredibly stupid and just let them know you are thinking about them.  Communicate your prayer needs through email or ask how you can pray for them.  Setup a Google Hangout to just be able to see them and see what is going on in their daily lives.  Ask them and invite them to stay in touch with you and do the same things you are doing.

An important note to all of this, make sure you actually RESPOND if people text you or email you.  It is almost criminal how long I can take to get back to someone via email or text.  If someone is making an effort to get in touch with you, the least you can do is actually respond.   Remember Jesus’ words about the Golden Rule, “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them,” (Luke 6:31 HCSB).  It’s always disappointing to put yourself out there and not hear back and the feeling can stink, so think your heart and text them back, even if it’s a short, “Thank you.”

Send Them Small Reminders or Blessings

So far, I have only got a chance to practice this by blessing my wife in small ways since we are apart.  However, some people are gift people and are blessed by receiving something that shows you were thinking about them (my wife is definitely one of those people).  It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive; it can be as simple as a refrigerator magnet or a keychain.  It might be a useless trinket, but it’s not that way to the person receiving it.

James says in the book of James, “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:14-16 HCSB).  I might be vamping a bit on what he says, but some people don’t need your kind words, they literally need you to show them (through some physical provision) that you care for them.  I’m not saying this passage means you have an obligation to give a small gift to someone, but I think we can take the idea that some people don’t see our passing words of blessing as a real blessing but need to have a tangible form of what our heart feels for them.

Remember Them Often In Your Prayers

This is the most important one, in my opinion, and where I need the most work.  The Apostle Paul greeted those he dearly loved by encouraging them that he has remembered them and is praying for them.  “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer,” (Philippians 1:3-4 HCSB).  “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2 Timothy 1:3 HCSB).  Paul remembered his close disciple and friend Timothy and the wonderful church in Philippi when he prayed for them.  Not only does remembering someone in your prayers come from the relationship you already have, your affections and your thoughts will begin to focus on that person or group of people more as your pray for them.  You end up doing the above things; you text them how you can pray for them; you seek ways to serve them even though they are far away and remind them of God’s truth and the good news even when they are out of the range of your voice.

This by far can be the hardest one for some of us, especially those of us who get excited for the above two.  I find myself consistently forgetting to remember those who are away from me in my prayers.  It’s no surprise that very often my feeble prayers are all about me and my circumstances.  Conversely, when my prayers are saturated with the needs and cares of others, the prayers I send out are vital and filled with joy as I remember those people and also anticipate with joy the Spirit hearing my prayers and coming to the aid of those who need it.  When you lift those who are far from you in prayer the Spirit will help you to remember them in the future in the everyday hustle and bustle of life.

There are three things I have been turning over in my mind.  What other things can you do to disciple and serve others while you are in transition or apart?

Seth McBee – 11 Simple Ways to Disciple Your Kids on Mission

Seth McBee has a great article on the Verge Network website on how we can be discipling our kids in the everyday.  I constantly need these ideas and reminders on how to be modeling Christ and expounding the gospel to my kids.  Cultivate patience and consistency as you seek to bring the gospel of Christ to bear on every facet of your family life and the life of your kids.  His first point is a really good idea:

“1. Redeem everyday things

What TV show does your kid love to watch?  Watch it with them and tell them that at the end we are going to discuss questions in which we see ways the characters are living out their identity, how are their lives looking like Jesus, how are their lives showing who/what they are trusting, etc. For my kids, it’s Phineas and Ferb. We sit down and watch it, then discuss.

The night before I wrote this article, we spoke about servanthood, identity, idols, fears, anxiety, the Imago Dei, etc. After we discussed, we prayed as a family for very specific things that we discussed. Guess what the kids are always asking to do? “Daddy, can we do Phineas and Ferb and theology?” They desire to learn because it is something they enjoy.”

Click the link for a great read and to read the other ten:  11 Simple Ways to Disciple Your Kids on Mission