The Arrow

So, I did a thing last week.

I accepted an offer to fill the role of Teacher Assistant in our local public school district. I am super excited!  I have known the principal who hired me for several years and we have forged a really cool friendship, though he is at least 25 years younger.  His faculty is one of the best in our district, and we have walked through some really amazing victories together, as well as a few very heavy valleys which have affected the lives of our students, their families, and our entire community.

I have considered this move for quite a while, and especially since I began the process of completing my studies for a Bachelor’s degree … at the age of 55!

At this age, most people have determined their likes and dislikes, preferences, and behaviors.  And, no one really likes to change.  Well, almost no one.  I am one of those very interesting (and sometimes frustrating) adult ADHD specimens who is always looking, and seeking, and pursuing, and discovering, and inquiring.  I have ‘words’, as my sweet quiet introvert wife Sheryl will attest.  Lord that woman has patience with me!

This week, during a personal development seminar, a very good friend and mentor showed me the famous FedEx logo and asked me if I saw ‘the arrow’ in the logo. At first, I did not.  So I looked again. And again. And again. Then suddenly, voila!  I could ‘see’ it!  Can you?

Sometimes, we don’t see things clearly.  For whatever reasons, sometimes life throws so many curves and unexpected challenges our way, that we simply cannot see the forest for the trees.  There are times when we need the help of others to see things differently.  I know that for me, I need the help of God, the help of His Spirit — daily — in order to see things differently than I have seen things before.

So when I finally did ‘see’ the arrow, it immediately conjured in my mind many references to the word arrow.

From my church upbringing, I have heard many times the scripture passage, “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.” – Psalm 127:4 states:  An arrow in the quiver is a strategy or option that could be used to achieve your objective.

A quick search of Bible scriptures results in more than 50 references to the word — arrow(s).

Arrows are implements of archery.  With nearly every reference in scripture, in language arts, in poetry, the word arrow almost always signifies the delivery of a message, or a warning, or a route towards an objective or goal.

Children are like arrows. Children are a heritage of the Lord, scripture promises.  Children become youth.  In their youth, or adolescent years, they begin to experience mental, emotional, and physical change. They are on a journey. They are moving towards early adulthood. They are beginning to ‘see’ things in a different way than before.

As parents and as educators of adolescent youth, it becomes crystal clear to most of us, that we have an enormous responsibility to nurture, and to guide, and to prepare our children for an ever changing and ever daunting world, which is filled with wonder, with adventure, with danger, and with opportunity.

To borrow from the imagery of archery, we must work diligently and daily, to prepare these young arrows with every possible resource.  For very soon, they will be chosen by our brave and victorious warrior King, the Lord Himself; and He will set them in his bow, aim them strategically towards the target He has set forth for them to attain, and empower us to release them out into their own brave new adventures.  And for what universal cause?  For what eternal reason?  For what earthly purpose?

To change their world. To make their parents gleam with gladness. To affirm their educators with deep fulfillment. To inspire their peers.

Or, as my sweet introvert wife always says to her own natural born babies, as well as to her classroom babies, “… now, I want you to go and make a difference …”

Leading the Next Generation

Andy Stanley states in Next Generation Leader, ” … I was given an incredible headstart as a leader. For that reason, I am convinced that it is my responsibility to pass on what I know to the generation coming along behind me.”
Now, I’m no Andy Stanley.  But, I also was given an incredible headstart from a ‘pastor-father’, who poured much wisdom and knowledge into my life at a very early age.  Specifically, that of a church leader; and I’ve been doing the ‘work of the Kingdom’ ever since.
As I approach mid-life (forty-somethings are almost gone … ha!), I find it interesting that what motivates me now, is to see the generation coming behind me get …  IT.  See pastor Craig Groeschel‘s take on IT.
As I begin to settle in to my new role as Worship & Creative Arts pastor at Oasis Church Gulf Coast, I am blown away by the tremendous passion for Christ that I see in our students and young adults.  The zeal to ‘do something big’ is that never-ending ‘bug’ that just won’t leave us alone.  “It” permeates everything that we do at Oasis, and God simply seems to keep pouring gas on the fire that is lit within us!
Already in 2012, more than 200 decisions to accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord, have been made through our Sunday worship ‘experiences’ (services) — both on campus at home, and via internet campuses across the nation.  We baptize a few dozen new believers each month, just at the ‘home’ campus in Pascagoula, and we hear reports every week, of dozens of new believers becoming more fully devoted to Christ and His Church through public baptism, connection to small groups, and commissioning (sending) into ministry or Christian service.
Most of the decisions FOR Christ here locally, are coming from the ‘Millennial’ generation … the 20-somethings and under, who most of the Baby Boomers (my age group) had somewhat ‘written off’ just a decade ago, following the hedonistic 80s and 90s that we all witnessed.
This ‘next generation’ actually DO know what they want!  And, it will scare the daylights outta you if you are not ready to listen to their heart.  They desperately want, and need, to be ‘fathered’ (led with discipline) and ‘mothered’ (nurtured and affirmed) … and they WILL be.  If not by the Church, then by their chosen Social Media group.  WHOEVER will hear them!
That said, let me echo my pastor with a battle cry for this generation.  HEAR them.  LOVE them.  And, LEAD them!
They … do not ‘see’ life as we did in the ‘golden era’ of the 40’s and 50’s — the ‘Mayberry RFD’ panacea world, with good old homespun stories, folk songs on the front porch, and fresh veggies cooking on the stove every evening for dinner.  They have not been modeled how to respect authority.   They do not know HONOR, like we did.
WE — Baby Boomers and Busters — must TEACH them.  And, we must LEAD them.  That means we must make TIME for them.
And, yes, it will call for some inconvenience.  And, yes, it will cost you.  And, yes, you’ll have to invest in them.  But — OH how it’ll be worth it!
This year is an election year in America.  If you choose to let another generation watch you carelessly and selfishly live YOUR life, as you wish,  spending time with ‘your 4 and no more’ (churches), and taking care of your own (family), without regard to your neighbor …. then, you have NO RIGHT to complain of the outcome.
God did not put you here to ‘consume’ His creation.  He put you here to ‘produce’ life, and to steward all that HE has already provided.  He is looking for fathers, mothers, producers, and ‘tenders’ of His Garden.
So, what will YOU do?  What is YOUR response to this generation?
Will you ignore their needs and desperate cries for help?  Will you continually condescend to their childish behaviors and symbolically “put them in time out” (jails, detention halls, etc), forcing someone else to ‘take care’ of them?  God forbid.
It’s TIME … TIME for the ‘dead to rise’ as the popular praise songs say!  No more casual Christianity! No more callous leadership.  No more selfish, self-promoting agendas.
GIVE yourself to the generation coming behind you.  FIND good in that kid who drives you nuts.  SHOW the love of Christ to children (especially) who rarely see Love in action.
Again, to quote Andy Stanley from a recent sermon series, ” … we are not trying to make a POINT anymore … we’re going to make a DIFFERENCE …”. 
To quote my pastor, Eric Camp, ” … we (Oasis Church) will NOT throw away this generation … we will LOVE THEM to Jesus!”