The other day I was watching the Nooma video "Rhythm" by Rob Bell, one of my favorite videos in the Nooma series. Rob starts out the video by talking about how he has observed people talking about prayers God has answered in their lives or blessings that people have attributed to God. Things like finding a parking spot near the front of the store or discovering an item that a person wanted had just gone on sale, even a situation where two people had been prayed for for healing and one had indeed gotten better. Rob pointed out that those things seemed a bit trivial to him in light of the immense suffering that goes on around the world and that often our view of God and what it means to be in relationship with him can easily get skewed. In the full context of the video his observation was right on, however I do have one observation.

This last Thursday night (Thanksgiving) Jen, Elijah and I came home from dinner at her parents house. Jen was pretty tired, having a newborn will do this to you, but Elijah just did not want to sleep, in fact it seemed like all he wanted to do was cry, as most newborns tend to do. In our vast experience as parents, I think it was all of 5  days at this point, we had come to realize that if being held and feeding him doesn't quite him down his pacifier usually does the trick. So I went to retrieve his pacifier from his diaper bag, and horror of horrors came to realize that we had left it at Grandma's. Now any good parent worth their weight in salt would have a backup lying around the house, we do, in fact we have no less than 20 different pacifiers of all shapes, colors and sizes, but Elijah in his long life, 5 days, had decided that he only likes this one specific type of pacifier. And so I began the task of attempting to find a store that woudl be open at 9 pm Thanksgiving night, it was either that or drive all the way back to Grandma's house. I wen't to Walgreens, closed. I wen't to Fry's, closed. I went to Albertsons, closed. Finally I made my way to CVS with the realization that if they were closed I would have to make the trek back to Gilbert. Not wanting to do that I prayed a short little prayer, "Lord please let them be open and let them have the right pacifier." Nothing extravagant, but a prayer of desperation none the less. Well lo and behold CVS was open and they did have the right pacifier. As I made my way back home thanking God for yet another answered preyer I recalled what Rob had said in his video. With all of the immense suffering going on in the world, with all of the parents praying in desperation for their children who are dying of Aids or who have no food, why would God bother Himself with something as simple as a pacifier on Thanksgiving? Then the answer hit me. Peter wrote in his first letter "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (1 Peter 5.7 NLT). 

We have a tendancy in the West to diminish what we go through because people iin other parts of the world have it so much worse than us. For the most part this is true. I would never equate my search for a pacifier to that of a father looking for food to feed his starving children. I fully understand how blessed I am living in the United States however my problems are still problems. They may only be 1st world problems not 3rd world problems but they are still things that concern me and have an effect on my life in the culture I live in and in this culture they can seem like a big deal. I fully believe that God is concerned just as much about my 1st world problems as he is about 3rd world problems, not because they are equal or one is greater than the other but because "He cares about [me]"

I hope that we would never feel guilty or foolish to bring our cares and worries before God, just because they may not be as important as someone elses. If they matter to us they matter to God, because He is our father and He does care about us.
When does playing devil's advocate move from challenging a teen to think deeper about their faith into planting seeds of doubt about their faith?
Last night I watched a documentary about "Purity Balls" that I had recorded from TLC over the weekend. It was actually quite interesting. It followed four groups of father/daughters who were attending the nations largest "Purity Ball" in Colorado Springs. It was started by New Life Church a number of years ago and now runs every year with girls as young as five attending with their dads. Some aspects of it I really liked. I liked the part about the dads and daughters dressing up and having a special time together (the ball includes dinner and dancing), many of the fathers chose to rent Limos for the evening. The young women were made to feel like princess's for the evening, which I think is always important for daughters to know that they are loved by their fathers. I also liked the fact that these dads were taking an active role in their daughters lives and spiritual development and serving as protectors of their daughters (one guy even had a cool statue of a knight in armor leaning on a sword and a little girl playing under him). In our day and age where so many dads are not in the picture this is important. None of that bothered me at all, some of it was a little weird, counter culture for sure, but Christians should be a little counter culture. 

What really got me however was how people reacted when their daughters couldn't/didn't live up to the purity pledge. Along with following the four families who were attending the "Purity Ball" TLC also spoke with a young woman named Jessica who had grown up in the purity movement. She remained a virgin until she was 20 (I'm not 100% sure on the age, but I think that's right). She started courting a young man, also from the purity movement, with her parents permission. Apparently one thing led to another and at some point in the relationship they had sex. She said the guilt and shame were so great that they felt they couldn't tell any one so they kept it to themselves and just tried not to do it again. Of course that never works and soon she found out she was pregnant. When she broke the news to her parents they were angry and decided that Jessica and this young man needed to get married right away, it was after all the right thing to do. Shortly before the wedding Jessica miscarried the baby. It was at that point that she realized that she was only marrying this young man because of the baby, not because she loved him, so she called the engagement off. Due to all of this her parents piratically disowned her, calling her miscarriage a punishment from God for her sins. At this point she is away from the church and from her family. There is more to the story that  I can't quite remember or put down here, but I'm sure you get the gist of it. If you get the chance to watch it, I would recommend it, I'm sure it will replay at some point.

It brought up a question for me however. Since I do not have any grown kids yet I will defer to those of you who do. Obviously there are certain standards that Scripture lays out as to how we should live our lives. As believers we attempt to raise our children, as best as we can, to follow those Scriptural mandates. What happens though when they do not follow the path laid before them? How will you respond?

I know of one whose daughter has taken a purity pledge, I pray that she is able to fulfill that, by God's grace and her parents guidance she just may. But what will you do or say if at some point she fails?

I was watching another program on MTV called "Sex with Mom and Dad". On this episode a young man (16) who lived in a Christian home, with parents who believed in abstinence before marriage, decided that he didn't hold his parents same views and didn't want to wait. He had to break the news to them and let them know that, while he wasn't having sex yet, he planned on it before he got married. How would you respond if this was your son or daughter?

While we are talking about children moving astray, what about the child that believes that may be gay? How do we respond in that situation as believers?

Do we push for the Biblical mandate and risk pushing our children farther from us and Christ?
Do we allow them to make their own choices in an attempt to maintain relationship and someday draw them back to the Lord?
Or is there a middle ground?

I am asking these questions openly and honestly. I am curious to hear your thoughts, especially those of you who have children. 

What is more important: relationship with our kids at all costs in the hopes of a return to the Lord or an adherance to Scripture no matter what?
Great insight from Jerry Cook's book "Monday Morning Church":

"Do you work with people who are annoying and cross? Do you wish sometimes you could work with only plesant people who talk nicely and smell good, complete all of their assignments, and never complain? People who never leave their work for you, who don't keep dirty pictures in their lockers and in their minds?
The reason you're where you are is because Jesus loves the people there-and you are the way he loves them. If you don't love them, he can't. You're there not because you would choose it; you're there because you choose to be with him, and he has chosen to be there.
If you're going to be with Jesus, you're going to spend time with some difficult people, because he came to seek and save that which was 'lost' (see luke 19.10). Feel free to cross out 'lost' and substititute any of these words: ugly, mean, vulgar, immoral, dangerous, violet, abusive. Those adjectives describe the kinds of people Jesus came to find. And lo and behold, he found some right where you work! Isn't that remarkable? All he wants to do is love them, and you are the way he wants to love them."