This morning I had to do something I hate—again. I had to tell my 15-year-old daughter Lucy, who survived a school shooting almost four months ago, about another act of school violence. By now you likely know that a sophomore at a Pittsburgh-area school stabbed 20 of his classmates before he was stopped and captured. If you missed it, you can read about it here. As I write, many of those kids from Franklin Regional High School are in surgery, with doctors racing the clock to save their lives.

My wife and I now have a new filter that we use to process traumatic events around the world: If it happens at a school, or is an act of mass violence by a single perpetrator, we want to be the first to let our daughter know about it, before she hears about it from some other source. We want to be the first, because “the medium is the message”— the way she hears about traumatic “trigger” events matters (in the end) more than the news about the event itself. I think we’re hoping to model how Jesus moves into our dark places. He doesn’t wipe away our reality; instead, He invades our reality with His forceful, tender, and redemptive presence.

He doesn’t take away the ugly; He treats our ugly like clay and re-molds it into something beautiful. But beauty that’s created out of ugly still has the stink of ugly, because that’s its raw material.

This morning my daughter has a look of pain on her face, and she alternates between telling my wife and I that she doesn’t want to talk about what happened in Pittsburgh with a steady stream of questions about what happened in Pittsburgh. She doesn’t want the ugly to have free access to her soul, but she wants the freedom to touch the ugly on her own terms. And it’s vital that she learns, early on, to live in the spirit of “The Stockdale Paradox.”

Jim Stockdale was an officer and prisoner-of-war in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War. He was imprisoned for eight years, from 1965 to 1973 and was relentlessly and ruthlessly tortured. But he survived the experience, and the way that he survived has now been studied and taught around the world as The Stockdale Paradox: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Jesus operates, all of the time, in the tension described by The Stockdale Paradox—He will move us to face the “most brutal facts of our current reality, whatever they might be.” But He does this in a momentum and a context of certainty that we will “prevail in the end.”

Our “dark habit” of attempting to be the first to talk with Lucy about new acts of school violence is our messy determination to communicate that bad things happen, and we have to face them, but even more, that hope prevails because Jesus prevails.

Rick / @RickSkip

P.S. It’s a good time to remember the vital basics of entering into students’ dark places with life-giving counsel. I love what GROUP Magazine columnist and longtime youth pastor Jeanne Mayo says in this short piece called “The Ultimate Counseling Advice.”

by Jeanne Mayo (Group Magazine Contributor)

It’s the kind of telephone call no youth leader ever wants to receive. One of our teenagers just attempted suicide—twice in one hour. So where am I in the midst of this trauma? Right by the young man’s side in the hospital, giving the kind of encouragement and hope every youth leader would want to give? Not hardly. I find myself hundreds of miles away at a youth leadership conference. Where do we go from here?

Thankfully, I’ve prioritized building a youth leadership team around me. So there are a couple of great young adults who are on their way to the hospital. Do these guys have extensive training in counseling or crisis intervention? I’m afraid not. Yet I’m authentically comfortable that they’ll be highly effective in this life-or-death scenario.

To help you understand my peace in this situation, let me reiterate my simple instructions to them. I think it’s the ultimate counseling advice most youth leaders need to remember. It pivots around seven simple words: “Don’t fix it until you feel it.”

This simple principle has served me through myriad counseling situations for nearly four decades. Though these situations often called for very different focuses, I started at the same pivotal place: I tried to make sure that my heart connected with the students and what they were going through before I began to share any thoughts or advice with them. Let me give you a few simple counseling highlights that go along with this principle:

1. Remember that listening is usually more healing than talking. We often forget this vital counseling insight. When a teenager starts to share, it’s a mistake to break into the conversation and quickly begin to dispense our “vital wisdom.” I think that simple awareness alone will make you profoundly more powerful in counseling situations.

2. Teach yourself to make “say-it-back statements.” By responding with phrases such as “That must have really hurt,” the student will sense that you’re connecting deeply with what he or she is feeling.

3. Never cheapen a problem by saying, “I know just how you feel.” It’s great to relate your own personal struggles to a teenager’s situation. But often, we spend three minutes listening and the next 10 minutes relating our own situation. I’m constantly amazed how many students say, “Thanks, Jeanne…you’ve really helped a lot” before I get a chance to say anything substantial at all. Why? I think the sheer act of deep listening is what helps most.

4. At all costs, avoid “T.R.T.” That stands for “typical religious talk.” I’m not saying to leave Scripture or prayer out of the conversation. I’m just suggesting that you make sure you’re doing more than spewing back some often-repeated religious jargon.

5. Know when to call in the pros. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been “over my head” in a counseling situation. I’ve often said, “I want to be your friend and help you through this situation, but can I connect you with someone who can be even more help to you than me?” Yet student after student has told me later that the pro’s advice wasn’t nearly as meaningful as my personal love and concern. So even after you make a referral, don’t underestimate the power of your continued listening and friendship.

In short, I have great news for you today. If you’ve had little or no professional training in counseling, you can still be immensely significant in teenagers’ lives. When they start to share their hearts with you, just mentally repeat “Lord, help me not to fix it before I feel it.” The results will make you a valued counselor. I promise.

- Jeanne Mayo is a longtime youth minister, author, speaker, and ministry resourcer. Visit her Web site—www.youthsource.com—for advice, ideas, and resources. She lives in Georgia.



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imagesI firmly believe that ultimately as leaders we lead by what we do whether we want to or not. We can be leading and speaking in one lane and living in another. And little do we know our that students over time do more of what we do and less of what we say. So it’s important we continue to grow spiritually, following Christ as we lead others. It’s important that we are investing in areas of leadership that we would love to transfer on to our students and allowing those things to live out in our own lives first. Then as we lead, teach and mentor, we will see those things lived out in the lives of our students. So here are a few things I want lived out in my life so they can be lived out in the lives of the students that God has trusted me with:

  1. Perseverance - A lot of times God calls us to do things that challenge us to trust Him. He challenges us to say I can, when we think we can’t. So, we need to model perseverance in trusting God’s timing and calling instead of our own.
  2. Humility - We need to remember that James 4:10 says if we humble ourselves then God will exalt us. We also need to remember that Luke 14:11 says if we try and exalt ourselves we will be humbled. Being humble is a state of being and not a position. Humility is not selling everything you own and living as a poor person. That is actually pride, because you are trying to buy humility by doing something. We need to model humility, which is simply knowing that God’s grace has you where you are and nothing else. We must live that out.
  3. Character – Your character shapes the leader you become, so they need to know that building Godly character is mission critical. You lead out the character you’ve developed or the lack there of. We need to model Godly character.
  4. Patience – They need to understand that patience is more then just waiting. Having patience helps you lead and make decisions with balance. Patience is really a lost art in our culture today. Amazon is the perfect example: They have a button called “Buy Now With One Click.” Just click it right there on the same page and buy it. They want to make sure you don’t have time to think if this a smart choice. They want to help you buy on impulse verses your purchase being wisely thought out. The faster we can have it, do it, use it, own it, see it, take it and eat it, the better. Patience helps you lead and make decisions apart from your impulses. We need to model patience.
  5. Compassion – One reason why compassion is important in leadership is because Jesus modeled it. Matt 14:14 says, “When Jesus saw the crowd He was moved with compassion and healed those who were sick.” There are so many takeaways from this verse, but the one that sticks out the most is that compassion has the ability to move you into doing the unthinkable. It takes a courageous, bold person to be compassionate. I can just imagine Jesus freaking people out completely as He walks through just healing people left and right. We need to model compassion.

We can teach these things a million different ways with great conviction, but the real question is…can we live these things out? It’s not enough to just teach. So what am I missing on this list? Which one is the hardest for you to live out?

Hope it helps

ac



If a picture is worth a thousand words… how many characters is it worth?

Please tell me you see the irony in this photo.

texting

The fastest way to become a Pharisee… is to hate Pharisees.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

 

In the last 24 hours I have read about (another) set of “famous” pastors leaving the pulpit because they were caught. There were allegations of mishandling money, affairs and other issues that had come to light (not all from one leader).

These stories keep coming to my doorstep.These are people in ministry who have given their lives to serving Christ, yet, they are falling down.The higher the pedestal the harder they seem to fall.Those with a name make the news. However, there is barely a week that goes by when I am not talking to someone in ministry who has or is struggling with affairs, porn addiction, divorce, or some portion of their life crumbling at the seams.

It has made me truly evaluate my own heart and the reality that I too am one step away from making these decisions. My heart breaks because none of us are immune to something like this happening, no NOT one.

What can I do to “protect” myself and my family?

1.  Know I Am Never That Important:

We say something someone likes and it just might go viral. We might have a little idea that lots of people like for today. John Acuff wrote a post last week, HERE on “Why Some Christian Leaders Fail.” He made the point that God is never “handcuffed by our failure or unleashed by our success.” Basically, God being glorified isn’t contingent on us.The Lord may choose to use me in a way that reaches multitudes. He may decide in my whole life I pour into one person. In His eyes both are “successful.” It’s about knowing I’m His and being with Him. It’s easy to puff up our importance because today people like to hear what we have to say.

2. Ask, “Is This Best For My Family Right Now?”

There are a lot of people talking about soul care, marriage and family ministry these days. All of these would say to, “Put your relationship with God first, take care of your family and then do ministry.” Unfortunately, the model follows with them traveling and speaking, AWAY from their family A LOT of the time. Maybe this works for them. However, it doesn’t for my family, or honestly for many of us. I had someone tell me recently if I really wanted my coaching and training  to “take off” then I had to commit to taking all speaking engagements that come my way. I have done that, and it didn’t work for us. I have met many spouses of those busy in ministry who are miserable, but feel “guilty” admitting it. Just because something is an awesome opportunity doesn’t mean it is best for you, your relationship with Christ, or your family.

3. Honestly, Is Ministry My God?

We can be out “doing” for God 7 nights a week. I recently was asked  to interview with a church that required “6 days of work.” You know what, I have done that without it being a requirement. There was a time when I was out almost every night until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. We never ate dinner as a family, I was exhausted, and I rarely saw my husband. I felt like I had to do more, be more, and offer more in the guise of “ministry.” That was until my husband sat me down and said, “You are losing us. Who is your God in this-Christ or what you do for Him?” I am thankful he called me out before he was so fed up it was “over.” I am also grateful I heard him.

4.  Accountability:

The busier we are the easier it is to go through the motions, with our relationship with Christ. Our own importance can “go to our head” as they say. We can think, “That person is so public how could this happen?”  I think the larger the scope the easier it is to hide our sins. Accountability systems are KEY. Who in your life is in your face asking you how you and Jesus are doing? Who will you listen to? Most important are you willing to admit that ANY of us are susceptible to ANY sin at ANY time? It only takes one choice.Think Adam and Eve.One choice.

I can’t reiterate enough how close we all are to choosing to walk away from Christ, instead of with Him.There are a variety of reasons. However, I think we have to start with being aware that we may never make the news, but we just might lose everything. None of us are immune.The wide gate which leads to destruction, never becomes less appealing. Instead, it has a really attractive wrapper. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be falling.

What are you doing to protect yourself from choosing the wrong path?

Leneita / @leneitafix



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