The devastation of the Oklahoma tornadoes brought back lots of memories of the terrible outbreak in Alabama in 2011. This was a post that I wrote following that time as we all tried to process the events with our children. Thought it might be helpful again.
Here are my thoughts on processing this with kids through a Biblical world view and I’d love to hear yours:
1. Be honest: Sometimes as parents our first instinct is to protect our kids from all of the yuck in the world. Our kids need to see the bad as well as the good and happy. The bad is part of life and part of God’s ultimate plan. To ignore that is to poorly prepare your kids for the real world. I’d rather my child begin to experience and process some heartache from a tragedy that doesn’t directly impact her now rather than wait until tragedy hits her world, which it will one day. These situations are good training ground for instilling a way to view tragedy through God’s perspective
Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about what is going on BUT do it in the filter of God’s word. Be realistic, but don’t over-emphasize the worry and the stress and the helplessness. Kids will take that from you and multiply it within their own hearts. Talk about the circumstances so you can pray for the people. Talk about how God’s people are helping. When you hear miracle stories, tell those. When you share something sad, pray quickly and specifically. Talk about how God is good, even when bad things happen and even when it doesn’t make sense. God is always good.
2. Be cautious: While you want your kids to learn from this, you don’t want it to consume them. Don’t leave the news running for hours at a time while they are awake. Don’t talk too much. Do protect them from gory or sensationalistic details. Your goal is not for them to get caught up in the drama. Your goal is for them to get caught up in the God who will receive glory through this tragedy in one way or another.
Talk through fears and concerns. Be reassuring, but don’t lie. This is hard, but I want to always be honest with my kids. When they ask, “Is a tornado going to hit my house?”, my first instinct is to say, “No baby, that will never happen.” That sounds good and is probably true, but I need to speak whole truth to my kids. I also don’t want to say, “Well, it could, now good night.” That’s a recipe for nightmares all night long.
Instead I try to say, “There are no storms tonight – nothing is going to happen tonight. And that will probably never, never happen here. But God has a perfect plan and He is right with you all the time, so you don’t have to be afraid of anything.” I do recognize that sounds too perfect parent, and I can assure you that those words were either preceded or followed by: “Who is going to get a spanking next!” or “Who put their toothbrush in the toilet?” or “Everybody just go to bed immediately!”. This is a very real house, I promise!
3. Look for tangible ways to help:
Model for your kids that God’s plan is for His church to be His hands and feet when people are hurting. Model that as believers we don’t just fret, we move into action. Giving money and stuff is great and this is a great example for your kids. Also look for ways to get kids more actively involved.
- Go to a shelter and let your kids hand out water.
- Our ministry is collecting teddy bears for young victims. Allow your child to pick out the teddy bear and pray over it before giving it away.
- Pray for specific communities as you look at pictures online.
- Challenge kids to think of ways to raise their own money to help those in need.
It started innocently enough. My five year old announced that she had a new pet. I was not exactly thrilled because this pet was a gnat flying around the house. She was not thrilled with me when I took out the fly swatter. As cute as the new pet was, I knew he couldn’t stay. He was quite annoying. But I didn’t think much more of it.
Then a couple days later the “pet” had a couple of friends. It was pretty annoying and I made a few valiant swipes with the fly swatter. But honestly, I was a little bit busy in newborn baby land to even think about it.
Then last week I realized that we no longer had just a couple pet gnats. We had 10-15 fruit flies flying around. And I realized we had a problem. So I threw out fruit. I cleaned counters and cleaned the sink. We took out the trash. We made an effort, but granted it was a pretty half-hearted effort.
And the next morning there was a swarm. It was gross. I had obviously not solved the problem. I noticed there was a number of them around the pantry. So I started dragging out everything in there. And then in a box behind the garbage can, I found it. A bag of potatoes.
Or what was formerly a bag of potatoes. Gross. Black. Rotten. And obviously the source of the flies.
Can I tell you that fruit flies are hard to get rid of? Getting rid of the source was a start but it wasn’t good enough once they had moved in. I have googled incessantly and have tried a number of different things – some mildly successful most not. Still every day I have a fly swatting session with the lingering five or so that will not go away.
So what is the purpose of sharing this heart warming story? It hit me that too often the same thing happens in our lives and in leadership.
There is a problem. We don’t deal with it. Either because we truly don’t know it is there or because we would prefer to ignore it. Little signs start appearing. A “pet” fly buzzes by and is annoying, but barely noticeable. But as time goes on the signs become more clear. There is a problem.
Maybe it is a problem in your ministry or your organization or your home. Maybe it is sin that you think is well-hidden and stuffed away. Maybe it is guilt or shame that you have never truly processed. Maybe it is a relationship that is in trouble.
It needs to be dealt with. But that would take energy and effort, and it is quite honestly just easier to swat the flies.
But the flies get worse. The signs reveal that the problem can’t be hidden any more. The longer it is ignored the more obvious it becomes, to you and to everyone around you. And what you end up with is a gross, black, rotten stinking mess of potatoes and flies that won’t go away.
You have to deal with the mess. You have to deal with the problem itself. And then you have to deal with all the flies, or the consequences, that have come from it. Ignoring it until it goes away only works for so long. Because it won’t go away. It will get worse and the flies will take over.
The leadership… and life… lesson here is this: At the first sign of a problem, deal with it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t hope it gets better on its own. Do the work to identify what is happening and fix it. Be persistent.
And if you have a secret remedy for fruit flies, send it my way.
And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:21 ESV)
I like the prosper part of that, don’t you? We all want what we do to prosper. We want our ministries to prosper. We want our jobs to prosper. We want our families to prosper. But often we are anxious for these things to prosper, yet we skip the two important keys this verse talks about.
- Seek God – We want things to go well and go right, but too often those are OUR things done in OUR strength. We get so busy we forget to seek the face of the One we serve. We choose not to invest in our relationship with Him and choose to invest in Facebook or tv or other things that will have not have an impact on us that lasts beyond five minutes. We must do the work of knowing and seeking God.
- Work with all your heart – Sometimes we get lazy. We want a great and strong ministry, but we don’t necessarily want to do the small day-to-day things that make that happen. We want to focus on the big and the fun. We want big picture and dreams. Working on systems or structures or details is not fun. But they are examples of the hard work that needs to be done. Are we willing to do the hard things that need to be done? Are we willing to do the not fun tasks that success requires? Are we willing to work with all our heart, give our very all, and give every bit of the energy we’ve got to the task at hand?
My husband taught my girls a Tim Tebow quote to apply to their softball practices (yes, they were only 6 and 4 at the time)…
Hard work beats talent when talent isn’t working very hard.
It doesn’t really matter your talent level. That will only get you so far. To truly prosper in God’s eyes, we must do the work of seeking Him and working with all our hearts.
Last Friday, March 29, our new precious Funderburke entered the world. She was 5 days early which I was totally not expecting. She is full of surprises. Hallie Joy weighed 8 lbs 5 oz at birth and was 20 1/2 inches long.
She has two big sisters who kind of adore her.
And a daddy who is already in love with her.
We have a full backseat.
She even has a yankee bff who was born the day before her. Much love and congratulations to Sam and Sandra Luce on the birth of their angel!
We are so blessed and grateful that God has a perfect plan for our family. Hallie and I spent Easter morning alone in our hospital room, which is kind of strange for anyone on church staff on an Easter morning! We watched Northpoints streamed service and they sang one of my all time favorite songs, “Because He Lives”. They included the second verse which I had only heard one time. As I held Hallie, I was overwhelmed by God’s providence, not just in bringing her into the world, but in every step of her little life.
How sweet to hold
A newborn baby
And feel the pride
And joy he gives
But greater still
The calm assurance
This child can face
Because he lives
I think I might just post this every Easter. This post is one of my favorites focusing on a sweet conversation with my baby girl. Great reminder of helping our babies process what Jesus has done for us.
One morning last week I had quite a God moment with my three year old. Just about every morning she gets up (most of the time a little earlier than I would like), crawls into bed with me and we snuggle for a few quiet moments before the madness of the day begins. Well, I say quiet moments. Usually she wakes up with lots of words and random questions.
So last week it was a morning when I knew we were going to be pushing it to get out of the house on time. I had a thousand things running through my mind that I knew had to be done before the day was over. I was impatient to get going when her sweet little voice said, “Mama, I don’t want to go to Heaven.”
I held her in my lap and asked what in the world she was talking about. “I don’t want to have my hands and feets nailed to the cross,” she explained.
My eyes filled up with tears as I got to explain to her, for perhaps the first time that she would remember, that she wouldn’t have to have her hands and feets nailed to the cross. Jesus did that for us. He was nailed to the cross to be punished for our sins. He was nailed to the cross so that we wouldn’t have to be. We can go to Heaven because He was nailed to the cross instead of us.
“Ok, I’ll go watch Mickey Mouse now.”
Here were my reminders:
- For some reason, God chooses some of those random moments to be the most valuable. I need to have my ears open for them.
- Even a three year old can begin to understand the gospel. Does she get it all, of course not. (Do we?) Is she ready to make a confession of Christ as Lord. No. But she can understand a lot more than we usually give her credit for, and she is beginning to build a foundation that will affect her for the rest of her life.
Thank you, Lord, for your hands and feets.
Why do so many leaders look so grumpy? Yes, we bear alot of responsibility and yes, we have a whole lot on our plates. But some of us have allowed all of that to steal our joy and make us pretty much no fun to be around.
Here are some things to remember to up your fun level:
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. You are the leader and you are important. But, come on, you are a normal person too. You may be kind of a big deal, but let everyone else think that, not you!
- Talk to people. Don’t be too busy or too whatever to not talk to people. Build relationships. Sometimes as leaders we kind of hide. Get out there and make some friends.
- Take people to lunch. Make someone’s day and buy lunch for them. You don’t even have to talk about your ministry or your job. Talk about life. Be a normal person.
- Throw some parties. Have people over to your house. Make it a big to-do or don’t, whatever fits your family’s personality. There’s always a reason not to. Do it anyway.
- Smile a lot.
- Laugh a ton.
Serve the LORD with gladness! Psalm 100:2
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
It is easy to become consumed with…
- MY ministry needs
- MY volunteers
- MY many hours per week
- MY underappreciated ministry
When “MY” and “I” become the focus, Jesus is not. We would not admit out loud that we think this way. But pay attention to your thoughts and reactions today.
- How many times did you feel under-appreciated?
- How many times did you feel a twinge of jealousy when someone else got recognition?
- Did you feel like no one cared about what you do?
- Did you spend more time thinking about making your ministry great or making Jesus great?
A real leader will first focus on making much of Jesus, and then much of other people. A real leader looks out for the good of the church, or the organization, and not just his or her own feelings.
I remember my first kidmin “emergency”. It was during college and I was a summer children’s ministry intern at my home church in Chattanooga. One VBS morning I walked in early with a student ministry helper when we heard a “help” down the hall. A volunteer walked out with blood pouring down her face from her scalp. I was 19 and I did not love blood! This was my first true test in how to react in a truly stressful situation.
Leadership is filled with stressful and challenging situations. They can be small or they can be intense. Whatever the situation, leaders must remain level-headed.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
2 Timothy 1:7
When pressure is high, how do you respond? It is important to remember that those we lead will mimic and multiply our reactions. People look to us to know how to respond. If we freak out, we will encourage chaos.
In high stress, we lead out of power, love, and self-control.
- We seek God’s power. We lead from His authority. We take control of the situation as much as the situation demands. We evaluate the situation and are not afraid to respond appropriately.
- We remember to lead out of love for all of those involved. Fear causes us to lead out of self-protection. Leading out of love forces us to put others’ needs first. Even in times of stress and times we might need to lead a little more strongly, we still lead with kindness and love for others.
- We show self-control by keeping our own emotions in check in stressful situations. We control our feelings and reactions enough to be able to evaluate the situation and develop a plan to respond.
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13
Here are three eternal truths in ministry:
1. Volunteers will mess up.
2. You will be disappointed.
3. Your true leadership shows in your reaction.
I had a very wise friend share the importance of this trait many years ago. If we are not quick to forgive those we lead and serve, we are going to be full of a whole lot of bitterness. We must learn how to hold people accountable without holding grudges.
It is not forgiveness to not address issues or broken commitments with people. These things must be addressed. Where we get into trouble is when we are hurt or upset by something and we don’t address it. Or we choose not to forgive and we walk wounded.
“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” Proverbs 19:11
If you are in ministry or other type of leadership and you get easily offended, you will be offended all of the time. People say goofy things and do goofy things. People sometimes choose to let the church be the place they express frustrations and stress from other areas of their lives. Sometimes people just disagree with us. Sometimes people just forget their manners. In other words, people are just people and as leaders, we catch the good and the bad.
The key here is to remember who you work for. God is who you are ultimately responsible to. And He has got your back. When you are insulted or frustrated, give those over to Him. By faith in Him, give people the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t mean to sound as mean as they just did. By faith in Him, choose to believe the best in people. By faith in Him, choose to let offenses go rather than dwell on them.
God still calls us to have a soft heart towards others. Even when we are in a season of ugly.
“And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
How do you develop tough skin but maintain a soft heart? The good news is that God provides it for us. He tells us that we have the whole Armor of God available to us to protect us. Remember, our struggle is not with flesh and blood. Though it may be a person who hurts your feelings, treat it as a spiritual issue. Remember the things that He provides to protect us:
- Belt of Truth – surround yourself with the truth of His Word and choose His truth over others’ words.
- Breastplate of Righteousness – protect your heart by being who Jesus has called us to be. Live your life and make decisions based on His leading. And remember that ultimately it is His righteousness, not anything that we can do on our own.
– Shoes of Gospel of peace – seek His peace over hurt feelings. Choose peace over resentment. Seek the purpose of His gospel over the offense.
– Shield of Faith – Believe in God. Believe that He is in control and in the grand scheme of His plan, the person’s offense is not even a blip on the radar.
– Helmet of Salvation – Protect your mind by remembering that your value is not determined by your popularity of the moment. Your value is in the fact that Christ died for you and that your salvation is secure in Him.
- Sword of the Spirit/Word of God – People’s opinions are not truth. God’s Word is truth. Line up others’ opinions with what Scripture says. Fill your heart and mind with His word so that there isn’t a whole lot of room for people’s negativity or unrequested opinions.