Marriage

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  Genesis 2:24

The institution of marriage has taken a lot of hits recently. After mentoring many men – most of them married – I shouldn’t shrink from this topic.  Particularly after recent pronouncements by millennials about things like not having children due to climate change.

Let’s start with the trends.  There has been a dramatic decline in marriage of those over 18 in the U.S.  A Pew study shows marriage rates have declined with only 50% of people over 18 being married today compared to 72% in 1960.

Marriage is occurring later than before, partly because millennials are maturing later. In 1960, the average age of a woman to marry was 20.  By 2017, the median age is 27 for women and 29 for men according to a study by Tera Jordan at Iowa State University.

I attribute this trend to several things, not the least among them is that millennials have a lengthier adolescence, sometimes into their early 30’s. That’s a trend that has been occurring since the 1980’s according to New Passages author Gail Sheehy.

One journalist has gone so far as to attribute the decline in marriage to “cheap sex” and that the decline follows the introduction of the “pill”.

One bright spot:  the rate of divorce has declined, too. In fact, younger people are getting fewer divorces than those who are 55 or older.

I came across a recent article titled “What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse” by Mandy Len Catron. Just the thought of putting marriage in a win/lose context is confusing to me.

The theme of the article that marriage may not be the “social good” that people “believe and want it to be.”  The article says that there have been “massive changes” to the institution, leading to the question: Is it obsolete?  The whole premise of that statement is mind-numbing.

The writer considers it to be both a “social and political” question. Huh?  Since when is marriage political?  I must be missing something.

She concludes that marriage is not as popular as it once was and is not viewed as “the most prestigious way to live your life.” She cites studies that marriage causes loneliness – married people don’t go out as much. She describes it as “social alienation.”

The essence of the article is that marriage puts limits and takes from you. If you should have children, it takes even more. It is all about me – being self-absorbed is great – so anything that changes perpetual adolescence is to be shunned. It’s a myopic world view.

Marriage involves sacrifices. It starts with the sacrifice of oneself for the sake of another, and it is a path that leads to a fuller life, not a lesser one. My friend Paula Rinehart mused: “One wonders what the author will think when she reaches age 60, alone and with no one she particularly cares about.”

The Atlantic author says that she and her partner don’t ask whether they want to get married. They are asking: “how we want to define our sense of family and community.”

I have 53 years of marriage experience, a product of a lot of work in the trenches. When I married, I knew I loved my wife. Getting married was the socially accepted and logical result.

Something  has gotten lost in the translation. I didn’t marry because I was thinking about how I want to define my sense of “family and community”.  I married because it is an institution that has survived thousands of years in our culture. It is not just a passing fad.

It has a purpose – a God ordained purpose – it is the bedrock of every society. One of its purposes is procreation – the continuation of our species.  Try as they might, same-sex marriages don’t achieve this.

The Atlantic article reflects a very millennial view. Their self-absorption gets in the way of understanding that being unselfish is enriching, not constraining.

The challenge here is that the views may be widespread, not just one person’s. The focus is on the “me”, and anything or any institution that threatens “me” must be redefined to that “I can always be me.”

The path will lead to a shallow existence and a lessened life. Jesus sacrificed for us, and we are to serve one another. In marriage, we are to submit to one another.  It’s not just “all about me”.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can an advocate for the institution of marriage as God created it. Millennials need your perspective.

FURTHER READING:What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse

Divorce Rate is Dropping Unless You are Over 55– WSJ

When are You Really an Adult?”– Julie Beck

National ReviewCheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage

WORSHIP:  Listen to You’re Beautiful– Phil Wickham

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address. Photo:  Provided by Dan Rush; used by permission.

 

 

 

 

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Intellect

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  1 Corinthians 1:19 

 The world is full of smart people.  I admire them – they do things so easily. They never seemed to break a sweat getting a good grade or accomplishing amazing things. I think about Mozart, for example, who learned the basics of piano at age 3 and wrote his first minuet at age 5.

But raw intellect is not a guarantee of success. Thomas Sowell, in his book Discrimination and Disparities, cites a study of 1,470 people with IQ’s over 140, or the top 1 percent. Only some of them had successful careers; the rest had modest achievements and 20 percent were labeled disappointments.

Of the disappointment group, what may have been missing, according to Sowell, was “simply someone to point an individual in the right direction.”

Our educational system has an almost binary system for determining intelligence:  reading and math.  In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardener changed the scene when he developed 9 categoriesof indicators of when a person is “smart”:

  • Linguistic (“word smart”)
  • Logical mathematical (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“sound smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self-smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
  • Existential (“life or street smart”)

Gardener’s work has been largely ignored over the past 40 years. The SAT’s (a college entrance exam)  tests only two subjects: verbal and math.  No other area of intellect is tested.

In fact, the other 7 forms of “smarts” are often dismissed as just being “soft-skills”, yet they play a role in our culture and history. For example, you may not have the mathematical intelligence to figure out how fast the universe is expanding, but if you are “people smart”, you can find the right person who can do it.

If you’ve encountered a gifted musician, you realize that their talent is not a skill that can be learned.

The same goes for artists – we have two in my family who are incredibly talented. Yet I can’t draw a good stick-man and couldn’t achieve any level of artistic excellence no matter how long I studies or was taught.

I’ve addressed this topic a couple of different ways in my posts onSoft SkillsHumanicsandPassion This is about exploring what a young person can and should aspire to in life.  One of these, though, has a downside due to the invasion of the digital world – language intelligence.

For the next generation, it is important to realize that not everyone is wired to study Black Holes in a graduate astrophysics course at Harvard.  I actually have a friend who did that.  She later dropped out of the PhD program at Harvard and became a ski instructor in Sun Valley, Idaho.

That point was brought home to me by Alfred Coates, a distinguished law professor at UNC – Chapel Hill who gave the commencement speech at my graduation.

Albert distinguished himself in academia, but he also had a homespun nature. His commencement story was about a nearby farmer who had solved a problem in an ingenious way.

When Albert complimented the farmer on his solution, the farmer replied:  “Well, Albert, those of us who don’t have good book sense sometimes just have to use our heads!”  Well said. Sometimes academics gets in the way of common sense. Just saying…

It comes down to the age-old question:  “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  I still ask that question at age LXXV.  As Sowell noted, one element that was lacking for high IQ people to succeed was having someone point them in the right direction.

My tongue in cheek analogy is that a 6-foot 6-inch 350-pound man who has a passion to be a gymnast might want to reconsider some other sport. His size makes him a poor candidate no matter how hard he tries.

The challenge is to help a mentee realize his potential by guiding them in assessing where they have strengths and in what fields they should consider for careers.  It can change their life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be that one person that is lacking in a mentee’s life to help him get pointed in the right direction for success in life.

FURTHER READING 9 Categories of Intelligence

Discrimination and Disparitiesby Thomas Sowell (2018)

WORSHIP:  Listen to Glorious Dayby Casting Crowns.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address. Photo:  Provided by Dan Rush; used by permission.

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

We all love a good mystery, sometimes a “Who Done It”, which is actually the name of a 1942 Abbot and Costello film which ended up inspiring others in the genre.

Mystery plots often involve a murder or other crime that has occurred and the subsequent search to find the perpetrator.

The plots often have twists and turns – about the time you think you have it solved, something gets thrown in to change the focus to someone else than the one that you are sure was the culprit.

Alfred Hitchcock was a master of the mystery thriller with his films Psycho and The Birds.  Each time I watched them, and I was uncomfortable wondering what would happen next. It didn’t matter if I knew what was coming, either. The suspense was all too real.

There are even Mystery Dinner Parties where guests play parts and one of the partygoers is secretly playing a murderer. The guests must determine who among them is the criminal.

What makes the mystery so fascinating?  I suppose suspense and intrigue. We are all challenged by a movie which drops clues left and right – some of them intentionally to keep you guessing.  In fact, a definition of mystery is “a novel, play, or movie dealing with a puzzling crime, especially a murder.”

I have to admit a certain interest in an old TV series called Castle, which is now in reruns after 8 years.  I have watched the entire series, and my grandkids even kid me about it.

The series involves the life of a female New York detective and her sidekick, a mystery writer, who jointly would solve the crimes.  The drama was rounded out with comedy.

The second definition of mystery is the one I want to focus on: “something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.”

The word “mystery” occurs 28 times in the bible.  In scripture, it’s often used to describe a truth that can only be revealed by divine revelation.  The above passage is a good example of this use, and it is one that I have pondered for much of my faith life.

I initially was confused about what the “mystery” was all about – why was Christ a mystery? Thinking back to my pre-Christian plight, I thought that a lot of the mumbo jumbo around Christianity was a mystery, and an academic one at that.

I had my own challenges with the mystery of faith. I can’t help but think about the next generation, who, like me, did not grow up in a Christian household. Let me be clear here: my family went to church, but it was more of a social construct.

After my conversion, over time I unraveled some of the mysteries of the faith.  I learned what concept of the Trinity was all about.  Before conversion, it was a puzzle. In some ways, it still is.

There is a part of me, and I am sure in others, which wants to understand all there is to the theology of being a Christian. I’ve come to the conclusion – after lots of years wondering and studying – that not everything in scripture will be revealed to us in the here and now.

The next generation is much like me – they have had little or no contact with the bible compared to prior generations. That is most true for Gen Z. When we communicate with them, it is important to remember that trying to expose them to theology in a totally rational and methodical way to faith may be a waste of time.

I am drawing on my own faith experience here. It didn’t matter much if I  sat in church before being a believer listening to a pastor trying to unwind the mysteries of our faith. What did matter was his life and the lives of those around me.  The only spiritual truth that mattered in the end was the Jesus I saw in others.

It was not their theology that won the day. It was their lives that mirrored the life of Jesus. As Paul says, the mystery is Christ in us.

I no longer get caught up in solving every theological “mystery”. They are nice to understand, but not essential in the day-to-day living out of my faith. Whether the rapture is pre or post tribulation is not something I dwell on in my daily life.

The challenge here is to simplify your theology to the “Why” you believed to begin with. Explaining the trinity might be beneficial to someone in seminary. But to an uninformed next generation, it is unlikely to advance the ball in becoming a Christian.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  It’s who you are, not what you say, that will lead your mentee to Christ.

WORSHIP:  Listen to one of my favorites:  I’m Going Free by Vertical Church Band.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address. Photo:  Provided by Dan Rush; used by permission.

 

Decisions, Decisions

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.  Proverbs 15:22

Everyone has to make a hard decision from time to time. Sometimes the weight of a decision kept me awake at night. I am not alone. I suspect you have been in the same position.

The next generation is no different. They are at the stage of life where they will be making lots of decisions, some small, but some that might be life changing.

Both Millennials and Gen Z have a proclivity to make decisions based on emotion. Facts, analysis, critical thinking and reason go out the window.

Alternatively, they are frozen by a fear of failure.  They don’t want to make a mistake, and given the number of choices that face them, they often make no decision, which is a decision in itself.

They are often persuaded by social media, which is like the blind leading the blind. Social media provides opinions based on the same emotional matrix of their generation. That is a recipe for disaster.

Due to extended adolescence where they don’t become adults until their late 20’s or later, they have deferred making hard decisions about relationships or careers.

Granted, not all decisions matter to the extent that you need to do critical thinking. But major decisions – life changing decisions – are ones that can get swept up into an emotional decision tree.

In my career, as a mentee developed experience, I stopped answering their questions which would make a decision for them. Instead, I would ask for their solution. I believed that if they did not have a solution (good or bad), they hadn’t thought through the issue enough.

This same approach is helpful for helping the next generation develop in their ability to think critically. I am cautious about providing my answer to solve their problem. Instead, I help them analyze their options. It’s their decision, after all, and I don’t have to live with the consequences.

Even small decisions can have a big impact, sometimes more than large ones. As Shawn Lovejoy notes, “We are one or two bad decisions away from destroying our life, and one or two good decisions away from turning our life around.”

I’ve written about this topic before (EmotionalismCritical Thinking), but it deserves another look. I even provided a practical matrix for decision making for the next generation.

On my recent Dude Ranch experience, I often asked the staff who were either millennials or Gen Z if they based their decisions on emotion, and they consistently said “Yes”.

Whether you like it or not, decisions will define you. The decisions you make today will end up being the stories of your life down the road.

So how do you make better decisions? I think it would be too easy to just say do some critical thinking for someone that has not advanced far in their ability to think critically.

A better way, as suggested by Shawn Lovejoy, is to adopt three habits which may aid anyone (not just leaders) to making better decisions.

The first habit is to seek out relationships with people who make good decisions. Turn to someone who has been successful in the area you are interested in. If it is about marriage, seek out someone who has had a successful one. The bottom line: find a mentor that can help you.

Don’t be shy: ask them questions like “What did you do when you were in my shoes?” They may not have the magic answer for you, but I am willing to bet they will advance your understanding of your decision, possibly from a vantage point you hadn’t considered.

The second habit is to be a personal advisor to yourself. This might be hard because you have to remove emotion from the equation. You need to ask yourself “What would I advise someone else in this position?” Alternatively, ask yourself “What would a great leader do in my circumstances?”

The last habit is to seek advice from the right people. You instinctively know who they are, and they probably aren’t your friends on social media who give such advice as “Go with your heart”.

Lovejoy says that he often asks the advice of 4 or 5 different people when making a large decision. He said he cannot even count the number of times that “this has saved my tail.”

Mentors are part of this equation. This is where you can reach out to someone who is ahead of you on the curve of where you want to go. In Japan, they call it Sensei, and the actual meaning of that word is “one who has gone before another.”

Mentors have been there and back. They probably have a T-shirt, too. For the next generation faced with a decision, the challenge is to take advantage of a mentor as a resource.

A mentors role is to help the mentee make the best decision possible given the known facts and circumstances. They can provide insights into issues they have encountered that the mentee may not have thought about or considered.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor can be a valuable resource for a mentee to bounce problems off so they can be clear eyed when making a decision.

FURTHER STUDY:  Shawn Lovejoy – 3 Habits that Make you a Better Decision Maker

WORSHIP:  Listen to You Revive Me.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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Photo is courtesy of Dan Rush and used by permission.

 

 

 

 

Gen Z Trends

IMG_1762

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18

This is the generation where the oldest is now around 21. We often talk about them in generalities, but after lots of research, those generalities have proved accurate.  I was riding on a plane recently and spoke to a young woman who was still in college and a member of Gen Z.

We spoke about several observations that I have written on her generation, and she confirmed that what I was saying was accurate.  Good to know I’m not totally off base.

Gen Z, as they are commonly called, are different from their predecessors, the Millennials.  The latter are now aged 22 to 38. If you are not sure if someone is Gen Z or not, just ask them if they are a millennial and they will quickly tell you: “I am not one of them.”

Thomas Rainer, one of many resources that I follow on leadership and cultural trends, recently did a podcast on Gen Z.  It contains some interesting trends and new insights as to how this new Generation is now affecting the church.

Gen Z is asserting its influence on Church life in subtle ways. They are digital natives, which means that if your church is not involved in the digital community, Gen Z might not ever know that you exist.  Put in another way, Gen Z continues to seek a digital community and is attracted almost exclusively by that means of communication.

Churches that miss this trend may be missing the mark. It is something that I pay attention to, often suggesting methods of communication that will be consumed by the next generation.  Much of the on-line Church websites cater to an older generation. Works for them, of course, but not for Gen Z.

A church that may be visited will already have been checked out on line.  They can get an idea of what you are about from the church webpage, long before they darken the door. That means that the website needs to cater not just to members, but also to prospective attenders of a younger generation.

A member of Gen Z or a millennial is unlikely to ever pull up and listen (or watch) last week’s sermon. They don’t have the attention span for that.  It’s not the content; it is the length that is problematical.

Thinking creatively to reach Gen Z means adapting to their communication style, not the other way around. You can’t change the stripes on a zebra; nor can you change the fact that this is a digital generation. Not only that, it must be mobile digital friendly (as opposed to computer friendly), and your mobile presence must be clear.

Creating short podcasts, or even a breezy bible study on a sermon topic has a better chance of being watched.  Anything better than zero would be an improvement.  Social media is also a must for engagement and community.

Rainer suggests that Gen Z might be more receptive to the gospel than millennials. This is not a hard data analysis – but there are implications that this is true.  The time to reach them is now, not later, according to Rainer.

I believe that this generation has little contact with the church or the Bible, so they may not have an existing prejudice.

One thing that interested me is that Gen Z has never seen a “worship war” – which is where there is a tension of the style of worship in your church. It is an anathema to them – they will not tolerate it.

I know this might grate on some who prefer old traditional hymns for worship. But there are two things that will kill church attendance by the next generation: poor worship or poor sermons.  I am in favor of a more contemporary worship style than my wife, for example, but the reason is not just personal preference.

I favor a style of worship that embraces the next generation. I firmly believe that churches which are intentionally intergenerational will survive over the next 25 years.

Arguing over the style of music in a worship service is majoring on the minors, and apparently toxic to Gen Z.  The song below is an example of an old hymn in a more contemporary style which crosses the intergenerational barriers.

Finally, Rainer notes that Gen Z are service oriented.  They are focused outward and they want to make a difference in the world and their community.  This alone may signal a change in paradigms of the church. They want to be involved in the community, so a missional church may be more attractive.

While writing this post, I have been at a dude ranch in Wyoming. Most of the staff are either members of Gen Z, or are the youngest millennials. It’s been an interesting time interacting with them. My wife has told me that I interact with younger people better than anyone she has seen.

They are very career oriented. I’ve spent some time with a couple of them who wanted insights into either a career path or possible post-graduate work, such as whether to get a law degree or a joint JD/MBA (I voted for the latter,where you graduate with a law degree and an MBA in 3 years).

The challenge here is that we are on the cusp of a new opportunity with Gen Z – we need to be thinking about how to reach them, guide them and engage them. The time for engagement is now, not later.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Engaging with Gen Z is not all that difficult, but you must be prepared to change some of your traditional forms of communication. You need to adapt to them, not the other way around.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)

MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.

 

 

Gardens

insect

It [the Kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches. Luke 13:19

I enjoy gardening. Some find that hard to believe, particularly since I grew up in a suburb of New York City. Hardly a place to learn about gardening.  Jesus grew up where gardens were plentiful, and He often referred to them in his parables.

My wife’s father got me interested in gardening. He grew up around farms and his garden produced unbelievable quantities of vegetables. After we were married, my wife’s parents built a house in the county. It had lots of space for a garden.

My father-in-law was getting up in years but that didn’t slow him down. His wife, my mother-in-law,  worried about having too big of a garden for him to maintain. So, he made a 2-acre garden out of sight from the house.  She couldn’t walk to see it due to crippling arthritis in her ankles.

Take my word for it, a 2-acre garden is a lot to handle. I always chuckled over his deceit of his wife. That wasn’t the first time, either. But they were good deceits that didn’t harm anyone.

Our first house in Raleigh had a large back yard. My subdivision had been a farm in the past. My yard is where the livestock had been kept years before. Instead red clay,  I had lots of dark brown fertile soil. I used to kid that you could spit on it and it would probably grow.

My neighbor had studied agronomy in college. He had a garden that was plagued with the red clay soil. He had spent years trying to improve his soil into something more manageable with little success.

My wife begged me to start a garden, and I relented and started a little garden in the back corner of our yard.

It was fun to watch the plants sprout and grow – I had corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and squash. I quickly learned that something else sprouted and grew quickly: weeds. I had no idea where they came from – they just showed up and proliferated.

My neighbor would come over and marvel at how large my plants were compared to his. My squash plants were twice the size of his because of his poor soil. I was not a great gardener; I just had better soil.

I quickly learned that gardening was more than planting and watering. It was about keeping the pests controlled like weeds and insects. Weeds were so hardy that they started choking my plants.  You ignored them at your own peril.

The solution was frequent maintenance to keep the weeds down and control insects that preyed on plants. I learned to enjoy it. Gardening, after all, is more than just planting seeds and watching them grow. Weeding, watering and fertilizer are necessary.

As I was thinking about this topic, I thought of the parable of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13.

In the parable, the seeds fell in different places in the field. Some fell on the path and were gobbled up by birds, just like my blueberries and raspberries today. Some fell on rocky soil and withered because of shallow roots.

Others were choked out by weeds.  Some fell on fertile soil and produced abundant crops. Jesus was talking about what kind of soil you have when you heard the Gospel.

The metaphor is that your spiritual life is like a garden, and in order to succeed, you have to constantly maintain it – water, fertilizer and weed as needed.

We often put out seeds daily – it might be our thought life or the friends we chose to associate with, or influencers of our lives.  Influencers can be a positive or negative, depending on our choices.

The next generation, like all generations before them, have the possibility of growing up with weeds in their life – things that will influence them negatively. The more good things and good people that they can associate with, the more likely that those good things can choke out the bad things.

You can help your mentee by encouraging him to spend time with positive influencers and to think on things that are good and true as suggested by Philippians 4:8. It only takes one weed – one weak spot in a mentee’s life- to take him down the wrong road. It won’t happen immediately, but is likely cause trouble in the long run.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor can help a mentee keep his life “weed-free”.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Bethel Music play the  Lion and the Lamb.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address. 

Note: The picture was taken in Denali National Park, Alaska along a dirt road in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

Gardens

insect

It [the Kingdom of God] is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches. Luke 13:19

I enjoy gardening. Some find that hard to believe, particularly since I grew up in a suburb of New York City. Hardly a place to learn about gardening. Jesus grew up where gardens were plentiful, and He often referred to them in his parables.

My wife’s father got me interested in gardening. He grew up around farms and his garden produced unbelievable quantities of vegetables. After we were married, my wife’s parents built a house in the county. It had lots of space for a garden.

My father-in-law was getting up in years but that didn’t slow him down. His wife, my mother-in-law, worried about having too big of a garden for him to maintain. So, he made a 2-acre garden out of sight from the house. She couldn’t see it and was unable to walk due to rheumatoid arthritis.

Take my word for it, a 2-acre garden is a lot to handle. I always chuckled over his deceit of his wife. That wasn’t the first time, either. But they were good deceits that didn’t harm anyone.

Our first house in Raleigh had a large back yard. My subdivision had been a farm in the past. My yard is where the livestock had been kept years before. So, instead red clay, I had lots of dark brown fertile soil. I used to kid that you could spit on it and it would probably grow.

My neighbor studied agronomy in college. His garden was plagued with red clay soil. He spent years trying to improve his soil into something more manageable, but with little success.

My wife begged me to start a garden, and I relented and started a little garden in the back corner of our yard.

It was fun to watch the plants sprout and grow – I grew corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash and other vegetables.  I quickly learned that something else sprouted and grew quickly: weeds. I had no idea where they came from – they just showed up and proliferated.

My neighbor would come over and marvel at how large my plants were compared to his. My squash plants were twice the size of his because of his poor soil. I was not a great gardener; I just had better soil.

I learned that gardening was more than planting and watering. It was about keeping the pests controlled like weeds and insects. Weeds were so hardy that they started choking my plants. You ignored them at your own peril.

The solution was frequent maintenance to keep the weeds out as well as control insects that preyed on plants. I learned to enjoy it, which actually surprised me.

My gardening experience today is little different than my first garden because we live in an area inhabited by deer, squirrels and rabbits, in addition to insects and weeds.

As I was thinking about gardening, I thought of the parable of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13.

The seeds fell in different places in the field. Some fell on the path and were gobbled up by birds, just like my blueberries and raspberries. Some fell on rocky soil and withered because of shallow roots.

Others were choked out by weeds. Some fell on fertile soil and produced abundant crops. Jesus was talking about what kind of soil you have when you heard the Gospel.

The metaphor is that your spiritual life is like a garden, and in order to succeed, you have to constantly maintain it – water, fertilizer and weeding as needed.

We often put out seeds daily – it might be our thought life or the friends we chose to associate with, or influencers of our lives. Influencers can be a positive or negative, depending on our choices.

The next generation, like all generations before them, have the possibility of growing up with weeds in their life – things that will influence them negatively. The more good things and good people, that they can associate with, the more likely that those good things can choke out the bad things.

You can help your mentee by encouraging him to spend time with good influencers and think on things that are good and true as suggested by Philippians 4:8. It only takes one weed – one weak spot in a mentee’s life- to take him down the wrong road. It won’t happen immediately, but it will cause trouble in the long run.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: A mentor can help a mentee keep his life “weed-free”.
WORSHIP: Listen to Bethel Music play the Lion and the Lamb.
MentorLink: For more informatabout MentorLink, go to http://www.mentorlink.org.
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