Covid and More


Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. 
Proverbs 11:28

Covid has had a universal impact in all corners of the world. It is a serious threat, but sometimes you need a step back to put it in context. 

My son-in-law, Ben Fischer, could have been a writer. Instead he is a primary care doctor in Raleigh. He sent a letter to his patients which was so grounded and sensible that I couldn’t resist making a post about it. He could have written Younger Next Year. After a preamble to his patients, Ben writes:

“The principal truth I want to call you to is that the pursuit of health has not been changed by the emergence of a new virus.  We should first and foremost focus on doing those simple things that tend to keep us healthy, which not only lower our susceptibility to COVID, but they also make us less likely to succumb to early death or disability from ANY of the many threats to health and life that have existed for millennia.  

‘Dr. Lapinskes and I have had a number of our patients die in the past year primarily from the usual suspects like cancer, heart disease, pulmonary fibrosis, injuries from falls, sepsis and advanced age. By contrast, none of our patients have died from COVID.  Of course many people HAVE died of Covid, but it is a reminder that MOST of us will die of something else.  Our individual actions in pursuit of healthy and long life should not be overly focused on a single threat, rather it should be more long term, broad in focus, and solid in the fundamentals.

‘We all know the fundamentals of health.  1) Nourish your mind, body and spirit, 2) Condition your mind, body, and spirit, 3) Rest your mind, body, and spirit, 4) Don’t pollute your mind, body, or spirit.  The practical application of these fundamentals should also be no surprise – eat right, exercise regularly, get your sleep, don’t smoke, don’t drink to excess, don’t abuse drugs, keep your weight in a normal range, don’t pollute your mind and spirit with toxic media and images, watch and read things that bring you up not down, don’t dwell on negatives, strive to maintain work-life balance, care well for the people with whom you share life.

‘These fundamentals have not changed in the face of this or any previous pandemic.  Doing them won’t render us bullet proof, for we are mortal beings and tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. Doing those things will help us live WELL, which should be our principal ambition.  The other unchanging thing about the fundamentals of health is that though they are simple, they are not easy. We all know how easy it can be to fall into bad habits.  We need to support each other in the pursuit of health, which is why I have over the years organized wellness programs to help myself and my patients stay on a healthy path.

‘These fundamentals are even more important in a time when COVID is rampant.  This is most easily measurable by a fact we all know: obesity increases risk for severe illness and death from Covid.  Maintaining a normal body weight is not the only barometer of healthy habits, but it is an important one, and not doing so has myriad adverse health consequences.  

“A well-researched article in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed obesity doubling the risk of hospitalization from COVID and increasing risk of death by 50%.  None of therapies that are subject of heated debates, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine have anywhere the efficacy of protecting you from COVID than the act of getting into shape.  

“I’ll make one last Covid specific assertion, regarding vaccinations. The debates about them have become toxic and many of the conclusions people are making are based on notions that are entirely discordant with my lived experience as a physician.  The majority of our patients have been vaccinated.  And while there have been a small number of minor adverse reactions, none of our patients have been hospitalized with adverse reactions due to any of the vaccines.  Wake Med, where Dr. Lapenskes and I admit our patients, has seen few instances of patients suffering adverse reactions from the vaccines. 

“[….] Hearing from my patients that they believe vaccines are killing more people than the virus to me is like being told that it’s raining outside by someone who has looked up the weather on their phone when I can step outside and see that the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky.  I acknowledge that we do not have long term data on vaccine effectiveness and safety, but I can assure you that the medical community is not seeing short term, large scale, and already manifest harm from Covid vaccines.  

“What we ARE seeing locally is that 90% of the patients in the WakeMed ICU with Covid are unvaccinated (as of September 1st) a much higher percentage than the roughly 35% of eligible Wake County residents are unvaccinated.  My professional opinion is that the vaccines are protective against severe illness from Covid.  They are also protective of scarce collective community health care resources.  If you have not been vaccinated yet, I encourage you do so for your own good and for the good of the community.”

There you have it in a nutshell. God wants us to thrive, even in a pandemic.  As parents and mentors, we can pass along this kind of advice to our charges and mentees.  Ben finishes his letter by inviting his patients to join him in a 12 week health program at the local YMCA where he guides them through exercise regimes with an emphasis on nutrition and healthy lifestyles. His patients love him.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  While Covid is a threat to our health, we should be clear that there are other threats which we can actually do something about such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

FURTHER READINGYounger Next Year – Crowley

WORSHIP: Thrive – Casting Crowns

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Education


Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 
Ephesians 6:4

Like other topics, this one has been rolling around in my head for a while.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal jogged me into thinking about writing a post. The title?  “A Generation of American Men Give up on College: ‘I Just Feel Lost.’

In the article, the author cites a drop in the enrollment of men to college which has been an ongoing trend for decades.  In a few short years, two women will graduate from college compared to only one man according to Douglas Shipiro of the research center of the National Student Clearinghouse.

Lest you think this is just an American trend, it is not.  James Shelley in Australia also wrote an article on Ten Reasons Why Men Aren’t Going to College. It is eye-opening.

It is a trend that has been increasing over the past three decades.  Some point to the emphasis to improve women in sports (Title IX) and to encourage women in higher education. Well, it worked, maybe too well.  Other reasons include an “anti-male” sentiment, particularly if you are white in America’s woke educational system.  

But the shortage of men cuts across all demographics – blacks and Latinos suffer shortages of men on campus, and even Asians although the latter may be more caused by slanted entrance policies against Asians.

Prestigious Ivy League colleges have a more balanced ratio of incoming students, but the larger public universities have all turned into a large imbalance of women versus male students.  According to the annual U.S. News and World Report, the majority of students at public universities are now women. The report goes on to say that women will soon be the majority of college educated workers in the U.S. 

At the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, 59% of the student body is female.  At William and Mary where my granddaughter is entering her senior year, the number is 58% and at UCLA and the University of Georgia, the number is 57%.  

According to Douglas Belkin, at the end of the 2020-2021 year, women represented 59.5% of all students compared to just 40.5% of men. And the gap is widening.

One has to pause and ask “Why?”.   According to studies on this trend, one cause cited by researchers is that opportunities  have opened the door for women to seek higher degrees for jobs that were once not available. This trend began in the 1970’s and has continued unabated since then.

The other reason given is that men have a different formative track than women who often mature intellectually at an earlier age.  As we have seen in the millennials, there has been a consistent trend of entrance into adulthood at a later date, and that particularly hits the men. 

I think this is close, but it is not the real answer.  I am not a sociologist, but I think the real answer is the lack of fathers in the lives of their children.  Simple answer, but males today are saying they feel “lost”.

The WSJ article touches on this by noting that men who were interviewed are “hobbled by a lack of guidance.”  Where should that guidance normally come from?  I submit it is the lack of fathers in the family that provide a role model due to the ever increasing demographic of kids being raised in a single parent home.

The implications on the family in the future is troubling.  While I applaud the advances that women have made in education, men are falling through the cracks at an ever increasing rate.  The enrollment of men in college has dropped 10% in the last 5 years alone.

There are many cultural attacks on the nuclear family today often by groups that wish to deconstruct the family.  But the steady decline of males in college is a trend that does not look like it is going to be reversed any time soon.  Even mentioning that there should be efforts to increase male enrollment faces the blowback of “discrimination”.  

One modest suggestion from someone one who has devoted a large part of his life to mentoring.  If the fathers aren’t doing their job (or, more realistically, are not even in the home to be an influence), then it is up to others in the older generations to come alongside Gen Z and the next generation to encourage them to aspire to higher education in order to attain a better future.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are in the best position to give guidance to the next generation on the value of an advanced education.  It is badly needed today.

FURTHER READINGTen Reasons Why Men are Not Going to College – James Shelley

Women Will Be the Majority of College Educated Workers in the US –  NPR

A Generation of American Men Give Up on College: ‘I Feel Lost’ – WSJ

Colleges are Now Dominated by Women Creating an Education Gap Afflicting Men – Schneider

WORSHIP:  Fall on Me  by Andrea and Matteo Bocelli – a Song by a father and son.

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Starfish

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-8

I had the privilege of spending most of the day with my daughter yesterday.  We are keeping her son, Teddy, for the entire school year while he goes to a local private school.  She attended a “meet the teachers” meeting Monday night and stayed the night with us.

In the morning, we had a leisurely coffee at my usual haunt (Panera), and then played pickleball, followed by a lunch at the restaurant where her daughter, Sarah, worked this summer as a hostess.  With three children and the management duties of a medical practice in her corner, we don’t have that many opportunities to have quality time together like we did this week. 

During the course of our discussions, she told me the story of the starfish.  The story goes that a young boy was on the beach after hundreds of starfish had washed up on shore and were unable to return on their own to the safety of the ocean. One by one, he was picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean so they could survive.

An older person came by and commented that his efforts were a waste of time and wouldn’t mean anything. The young boy picked up a starfish and put it safely back into the ocean and replied to the adult:  “It means something to this one.”  He picked up another one and said again: “It means something to this one too.”

I love this story for many reasons. In God’s kingdom, every living creature has value. Even more, every human is precious in God’s sight.  The little boy knew he couldn’t save all of the starfish, but it mattered to those that he saved. 

Sometimes when you are mentoring and see the ongoing need for others to join in the fray, you might not think your efforts count for much.  Not true.  Just ask the little boy who knew that saving just one starfish had an impact on it, just as investing in one person from the next generation does.  

I love that story.  It is part of the heart and soul of mentoring one on one.  The idea is that mentoring someone else will have an impact and may lead to your mentee mentoring others when he or she matures.  The process can be exponential in its impact.

My daughter also told me of a program in the Raleigh schools systems called Foster Grandparents.  I was unaware of its existence, but it has been around for a pretty long time.  The only real requirement is that a volunteer be at least 55 years old.  That’s the prime mentoring age in my book.

One of the local schools has the program which is sponsored by a government program called Senior Corps around the country.  In Raleigh, Elma Boykin, a 94 year old woman who lives across the street from Hunter Elementary School, walks over to the school every day and volunteers her services.  She has been doing it for 13 years and it’s a great story of how fulfilling her efforts are to her and to those that she invests her time with. 

The volunteers in these programs do a variety of tasks, but the primary role is mentoring school children, each one of which is a potential starfish in God’s kingdom. Some of the programs actually pay money to the volunteers. I applaud these efforts in Raleigh and elsewhere.

Some programs require large commitments of time (such as 20 hours a week), but others may only need an hour a week.  One non-profit that does this is Neighbor to Neighbor run by Royce Haithcock for decades in southeast Raleigh. I supported them for many years when in I lived in Raleigh, even participating as a laborer with a sledgehammer when they were renovating their space.

On its website, Neighbor to Neighbor says that it helps “”Neighbors Thrive” to reach their potential through mentoring and tutoring.  They have been at it for a long time and have been successful in encouraging young students who need a helping hand. The volunteers tutor neighborhood kids helping them gain reading comprehension and proficiency in math.

After my time with my daughter, I keep thinking of  every child as a starfish that needs others to come alongside and do something meaningful in their lives.  There are lots of opportunities in your community to mentor the next generation and you might do some investigation of non-profits or other agencies that have programs already set up. 

You might not have 20 hours a week to throw at it, but there are lots of possibilities that may meet your schedule that can impact a life that needs a little help when they are unable to succeed on their own.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentoring takes many forms, and existing programs that provide opportunities for tutoring and mentoring may be an easy way to get involved in helping the next generation.

FURTHER READING:  Foster Grandparents in Raleigh

Senior Volunteers for Tutoring Reading – Information on Places to Serve

Neighbor to Neighbor – Raleigh Website

WORSHIP: Glorious Day – Passion

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Tokyo 2020

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1,2

The 2020 Olympics actually happened in Japan in 2021, but because of trademarks and other intellectual property issues, were still named “Tokyo 2020.”  It was unlike any other Olympics in so many ways.  It was postponed due to the pandemic, and because of continuing Covid outbreaks, the beautiful stadiums built for the games at a cost of $20 billion were empty, save for the participants. 

But the story of this particular Olympic was not just on the field, but off the field as well.  A Belarusian athlete, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, escaped her “handlers” and sought asylum in Poland because of her criticism of the authoritarian government in her country. The “handlers” were supposed to be coaches  but were sent home by the International Olympic committee when their true job was disclosed.

Perhaps the best story was not what happened at the Olympics, but what didn’t happen.  Early in the games, Simone Biles, probably the worlds leading female gymnast announced that she was withdrawing from competition just before the finals.  She entered the games as perhaps the biggest star.  Why she withdrew has sparked a lot of discussion:  she withdrew because of mental health issues. 

In her statement, Biles said that “It’s really been stressful this Olympic Games. It’s been a long Olympic process. It’s been a long year. Just a lot of different variables and I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out, but we should be out here having fun and sometimes that’s not the case.”

While you could dismiss this as just another example of Generation Z not having mental toughness, I think her decision shows something else. She had the courage to make a decision that her mental well-being was more important. She was not the first high level athlete to withdraw for mental health reasons.  Tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Tennis Open for the same reason.

A couple of takeaways from this. First, we learned that young people are not immune to pressure and their mental health issues need to come to the forefront.  They are not automatons who are immune to stress. 

Secondly, as Tim Elmore points out, some young athletes balk at the pressure put on them by coaches, fans and even their own family. Healthy leaders produce and foster healthy young performers. We need to help them overcome their propensity for self-imposed pressure. 

My granddaughter is an example. My wife is helping her develop self-confidence when she plays tennis with someone better. Her advice?  When you play someone better, lower your expectations and count it a “win” every time you win a point.  Great suggestion.

As parents and mentors, we need to step back and be careful that we apply appropriate encouragement and not pressure for the context so that it doesn’t “lead to greater distress for them in the future.”  

They may need to be coaxed to a higher level, as my wife has done with our granddaughter. Help them set higher standards that are appropriate. As Elmore notes, we need to be careful of our motives as parents and mentors.  One example is parents behaving badly at soccer or little league games. 

My grandkids all play sports, and in the DC area, the rule is one “strike”, and you are out. If you are too vociferous or yell at the officials the game, you will be ejected. No warnings, just ejectment. One league even prohibited parents in the stands.  Parents say:  “it is all for the kids”. But is that really true?

Simone Biles at age 24 was touted as the best the best gymnast ever with 19 world titles and five Olympic medals – four of them gold. She was an “icon in a sport that sacrifices bodies, minds and lives for perfection.”  That’s a tall order. If you strive for perfection (instead of excellence), you can only fail. 

As an aside, Sis and I are going on our own “senior Olympics” next week. We are taking our first ever bike ride trip on the San Juan Islands with Stacy Rinehart, the founder of MentorLink, and his wife, Paula. At our age (77), we don’t feel much pressure to excel, but are both looking forward to a new life experience.

I have written numerous times about the mental health concerns that I have for the next generation who have a higher level of anxiety than previous generations. Simone Biles is just an example of how frail they can be, even when they are the best at their sport and seem to have it all together from a distance. But even Simone Biles has limits and we need to get it right on dealing with mental health issues for her generation.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  In dealing with the next generation as mentees, you are in a position to get a feel for weather or not they are having mental health issues or feeling inordinately anxious.  That may be your best contribution to their life.

FURTHER READING:  In Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal, some see a ‘wake-up call’ for sports that neglect mental health – WaPo

Simone Biles is already the Best Gymnast Ever; She will be even better in Tokyo – Time

Four Lessons for Leading Young People from the Tokyo Olympics – Elmore

WORSHIP:  Hold On To Me – Daigle

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Moving the Goal Posts

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

The phrase “moving the goalposts”  is an expression for sports that use goal posts, such as football, and it refers to someone trying to change the rules in the middle of the game to make it more difficult.  I have watched our culture recently and realized that this is happening around us so frequently, we don’t even realize it. 

Probably the best illustration is my experience with trying to attain a “senior” discount for ski, lift tickets, one of my favorite pastimes. When I was in my late 50’s, those who were 65 and up got huge discounts on their ski lift tickets. When I became 65, however, they changed the age to 70, and when I was 70, they moved it again to 75.  They basically moved the goal posts. 

Here are some other examples:

  • The CPI (Consumer Price Index) was changed in the 1970’s so that it no longer measures the actual increase in consumer prices that people pay. That was achieved by changing the definition and dropping out things like food prices and gasoline. It is now considered a “cost of living” index, but normal people realize that it is an inadequate index when they go to the grocery store or have to buy gas for their car. 
  • Covid lockdowns were initially to be temporary to “flatten the curve”, yet here we are almost 14 months later where there are lockdowns, mask regulations and other forms of control by the government into our daily lives. The Australian city of Canberra (population 400,000) recently did a “snap” lockdown due to one case of Covid.
  • In addition, despite inconsistent advice on the use of masks, many schools are now requiring masks even though the data shows that children under 5 are 18 more times likely to die of drowning than from Covid. 
  • Covid vaccinations were necessary until we reached “herd immunity” which is a level of immunity of the population either by those having had the disease and getting natural immunity or through a vaccination. The problem?  The percentage of the population needing to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity keeps changing to something higher.
  • In the education world, school boards are requiring diversity classes based on Critical Race Theory.  One state (Portland) just passed a bill that eliminated standardized testing for math, reading or writing.  They think that standard tests are “racist” and that students are better off graduating without any proficiency in basic skills they will need to lead their lives after school. As Jonathon Turley notes, this will only hurt students, not help them in the long run.  
  • Diversity “rules” are now threatening our institutions and the arts.  Classical music is one of those that may be on the chopping block due to an effort to increase diversity hiring which eliminates the single most required skills – competence and ability – and replaces it with a race based selection process.  Heather MacDonald has written a two-part article titled “Classical Music’s Suicide Pact”.  The use of racial criteria to select musicians is flawed for so many cultural reasons (minorities do not gravitate to classical music, for one), so insisting on a selection based on race is automatically going to lead to a decline in quality musicians because there are not enough minorities to select from. 
  • Our military is becoming woke, and it is upsetting to those members of the military who see the imposition of diversity and racial guidelines as affecting morale and the ability of the military to do what it is supposed to do. Some commentators fear that we are endangered by the woke takeover. The emphasis on race and diversity is in danger of destroying our security.

I could go on, but we see these changes of standards all of the time in life. I wrote about this trend in 2016 in a post titled Seventeen Inches.  That post highlights a speech by a famous college baseball coach, John Scolinas.  His point was that home plate in baseball has always been 17 inches – that is the standard for every level of baseball today. It hasn’t changed. 

He went from baseball to life, and said we are lowering the standards in our home, our church and elsewhere to our detriment. He said we have let star players be excused from being accountable for their actions and we have softened rules at home. As Scolinas says, “we are widening home plate” and the consequences will lead to “dark days ahead.”

A recent study by the American Bible Society showed that only 9% of youth (those between 9 and 15) are Bible Centered. That compares with 23% of millennials and 14% of Gen Z adults (those between 15 and 24).  Not a good trend. On the bright side, teens who are committed to scripture have better management of their screen time. 

Who’s fault is that?  It is ours to own – the older generation who have relaxed the value of biblical scholarship in a post-Christian culture. The next generation needs to learn that one standard never changes:  Jesus Christ. He is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. That’s a lesson and standard we should not forget to pass on.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: You may play an important role in passing on the value of scripture to the next generation. It can be done easily by reciting scripture when you pass along advice. 

FURTHER READING:  The Woke Takeover of the Military Endangers Us All – NY Post

If You Want the Real Rate of Inflation, Don’t Bother with the CPI – Forbes

Classical Music’s Suicide Pact – Part 2 – City Journal

Getting Rid of Standard Tests Means Punishing Poor Students – USA Today

Why Did WHO Alter It’s Definition of Herd Immunity

Only 9% of Gen Z Youth are Bible Centered – Christian Post

WORSHIP:  Surrounded (Fight My Battles) – Michael Smith

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Test Me

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

There are a lot of memorable verses in scripture that you hear and read and think to yourself:   “Wow?  What was that?”   In my recent study of the Minor Prophets, I came across the phrase “Test Me”.  I haven’t gotten it out of my mind since as to how it applied to me.

The context is from Malachi 3:10, a fairly familiar passage related to stewardship.  In it, God challenges the Israelites to gather their tithe into the storehouse because they (the nation Israel) have been robbing him and not tithing.  The Message says it this way:  “Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me every day [by not tithing].”

Malachi then urges the Israelites to put their tithe in the store house, and God says:  “Test me in this”.  The test, of course, is to see that God would be faithful to pour out blessings in return.

My mind immediately went to my own experiences in which God said “Test Me.”  He wanted me to develop a level of trust in His faithfulness and also develop in me a dependence on Him rather than on my own resources. 

I have documented my financial travails before when I was technically bankrupt after several real estate investments went under. It’s not a great story, but it is my story.  I went from being very comfortable financially to being financially underwater overnight owing some $55 million to banks on real estate deals that had soured.  My only problem was that I didn’t have $55 million.

For once in my life, I was unable to rely on myself to resolve all of the issues.  There was no way to magically solve all of the issues of 27 real estate projects.  I was a relatively young Christian at the time which was the good news.  The bad news was that I hadn’t learned to trust in God for His provision. I thought that I had all that it took to be successful on my own.  Big mistake.

I hadn’t robbed God, fortunately.  I had learned to be generous in my giving, so tithing was not an issue. But all of a sudden, I had to rely on God for my daily bread and enough sustenance to get through the day financially.  There were days when I didn’t think I would make it and that the financial problems were too severe to solve. 

In the middle of my experience, my wife, Sis, provided me with a spiritual breakthrough that only wives can do.  I was worried about losing our possessions – our house, cars, whatever.  Even more superficially, I was worried what others might think of my financial failure.  That’s not a very mature fear, I must admit.

We were sitting down at our table in our kitchen looking at each other. I was pretty distraught at the time.  It had not been a good day.  She asked the question: “What is the worst that could happen?”  My stock response was measured in material loss – we could lose our house, our possessions, I replied.

Undaunted, she continued.  “Well, they can’t take away anything that is important to us. We have God, we have each other, we have our children, and we have our friends, and no matter what happens financially, those are the most important to us and they can’t be taken away.”

I felt I had been hit with a sledgehammer of common sense. She was absolutely right, and it was something that I couldn’t see in my day to day struggles to stay afloat financially.  All of a sudden, my “worst case” was really a best case.  God could strip away all of my “stuff”, but we would still have all those things that are truly important – a relationship with Him, each other, and our family and friends.

It was a watershed moment and one I will never forget. It is a reminder that God is faithful in all circumstances and that we should be grateful for non-monetary things more than stuff. 

From that juncture, my attitude changed. As the daily problems came up with lenders, I had a new perspective that there really wasn’t a downside.  I recall speaking with the attorney for one bank who asked me how my financial troubles affected my marriage. He was quite shocked when I said my marriage was the best that it had ever been.  

He said most of the people he dealt with in financial difficulties also had their marriages suffer or even disintegrate as well.  For Sis and me, we figured out we were in it together – we had taken marriage vows to be together for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, and in sickness or in health.  I hadn’t planned on the “richer or poorer” part, but there it was on our doorstep.

It was a moment to tell him that our faith in God never wavered and that we considered our relationship with God, family and friends the real treasure of our lives.  I think that made an impact, but you are never sure.  I never spoke to him again.

The next generation are facing lots of issues and are living in a post-Christian world, so they often have no tether to the God of the universe. The vast majority want to have a mentor in the life, and the opportunity to share God’s goodness is always there.

Just telling them how God has been faithful in your life is a simple way of passing on your faith. It is not rocket science and it should be a normal consequence of following Jesus. 

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your life experiences where you have relied on God to be faithful will come through and make an impression on the next generation who are probably relying on themselves to accomplish everything.

WORSHIP:  Goodness of God – Bethel Music

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#Finances

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Luke 16:13

I have been involved with a Friday morning bible study in Raleigh that has been going on for almost 40 years.   I have been active for close to 38, and one of the things that the pandemic has done is put the Bible study on Zoom which means I can still “attend” even though I no longer live in Raleigh.  

Recently, the topic of our discussions has centered on money and possessions.  It is the most frequent topic in all of scripture which may be clue as to how important a topic it should be in our lives. 

This is a topic where mentors can really help. There is a universal need for the younger generation to learn about how to handle their finances. Less than half of the states in America even require a financial education in their curriculum. I have written about this before and given some resources for Mentors to educate themselves to give better advice. 

Even if schools do require a financial based course, the next generation often doesn’t feel confident about their ability to manage their finances.  So where do they turn to get answers to their questions?  The answer may not surprise you:  social media, and in particular, TikTok and YouTube.

According to Pew Research, TikTok is used by over half of U.S. adults under 29.  Tik Tok has added “FinTok” which offers videos giving advice on “cryptocurrency fads, stock buying tips, and step-by step guides to cutting spending or starting a retirement fund” according to Esther Eaton in World Magazine.

But like other social media, not all of the content on TikTok is screened or even sound.  In fact, a number of the younger generation have been scammed by unscrupulous providers.  Hashtags like #personalfinance and #stocktok have racked up billions of views.

One survey by MagnifyMoney shows that 41% of the next generation between the ages of 18 and 24 got financial advice on investing from TikTok.  The largest provider of financial information remains YouTube. 

That’s a little scary where social media now becomes the provider of financial advice.  Our schools have failed to do it, so the next generation turns to the only thing they know how to use which is social media.

The result is not surprising since young people are susceptible to scams.  There was a huge jump in reported scams during Covid 19. Without a basic fundamental understanding about investing, things like buying cryptocurrencies or investments were at the top of the scam list. 

The problem with looking at videos about investing or other topics is that most in the next generation don’t have the basic financial framework in order to use the advice they get. A friend of mine, Mark Wholschlaeger, recently wrote me that he is seeing a high number of people do “day trading” in the stock market.  

That means that they are not investing in stocks but buying and selling them rapidly in order to make a profit. It’s a form of speculation.  Unfortunately, over the long haul, very few day traders actually make a profit over time.  In fact, Forbes Magazine reports that only about 10% of day traders actually make a profit. 

If you were going to go into a business where 90% of your peers fail, I would suggest you consider doing something else.  That’s what the next generation needs to hear, and unfortunately it is not the advice that they get from the internet or social media.

For mentors or parents, it is important to help the next generation get a foundational education.  I was surprised recently that the need for financial education was not just here in America but also in the developing world.  The leader of our Friday morning bible study recently opened up a zoom class using Crown Financial Ministries as the curriculum. 

What surprised me was that friends of mine in four countries – Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya and India – have all signed up to take the Crown course.  These are all mature pastors who have been involved in our leadership training at MentorLink. 

They realize that they need some help in the area of money. That alone demonstrates the need around the world to learn God’s system of economics.

I highly commend Crown to anyone, and you can go online to find out where the course is being taught near you or even online. My wife and I took the course when we were in our 50’s and our only regret was that we hadn’t taken it sooner to avoid some mistakes we made along the way.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors often get asked financial questions by the mentees. They need to educate themselves (if they haven’t already) on biblical financial principles.

FURTHER RESEARCH:  Social Media Use in 2021 – Pew Research

Survey of Economic Education in U.S

Personal Finance the TikTok Way – World Magazine

Media Sources for the Next Generation on Finance

Day Trading: Smart or Stupid? – Forbes

Crown Financial Ministries

The Top 20 Christian Financial Websites

WORSHIP: Crowns – Hillsong

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Engage

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything.”  Matthew 28:

How do you engage the next generation?  That’s a rhetorical question of course. The answer is simple:  you engage them.  Yep….not rocket science. The definition of engage is:  “to occupy, attract or involve (someone’s interest or attention)”. 

I’ve thought about this a lot particularly in my study of the minor prophets who constantly called Israel to return to its roots and to love and obey God.  I think those calls for returning to our roots apply to today. 

In the course of my study, I realized that the New Testament says a lot about how to spread the Gospel.  It is summed up in the word “Go” in the Great Commission.  Note that the verb is active, not passive. It doesn’t say “sit”, “relax”, be “passive” or “wait” for someone to come to your door and inquire how to become a Christian or be discipled.

Doesn’t happen that way (well, not for me).  Instead it says: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Not complicated. It is a command, not a request. In order to do that, you have to engage with someone else. That might be outside your comfort zone. To that, all I can say is “Get over it!”

The question for each of us is what does your “go” look like?  Who is the audience God has given you?  Who is it that you are discipling or engaging?  For many of us (including me for years), the answer was mixed.  I had no real overarching plan of what, how or who to disciple or mentor.

Then I started mentoring, and the light went on.  As I studied how Jesus developed His disciples, I realized that walking beside another was often all that it took.  You can’t give life lessons to someone who isn’t ready for them.  But when a life issue affects them, all of a sudden they become all ears and are willing to listen to someone who has been down that path before.

It’s a good thing that God has a sense of humor.  For me, it was always a matter of thinking how inadequate I was and at all the dumb things I did along the way.  But then I look at Peter and all of his erratic and impulsive behavior and I see hope.  Jesus can still use someone who messes up.

It’s from those messes that you learn real wisdom.  I have always felt that I learned more from life when I failed than  when I succeeded. If you succeed, you often think that it was you who did it, and not realize that it was God letting you succeed. 

When you fail, on the other hand, you look at the experience differently – often with hindsight as to what you could have done differently to affect a different outcome.

If you feel inadequate to be a mentor, join the club, but God will use your experiences for His glory.  If nothing more, you can tell someone with confidence that if they take a certain trajectory, it will lead to a bad outcome.  

We live in a broken world – a kind of a Romans 1 world.  We are faced with many moral issues that have taken on political aspects which is divisive to the body.  Abortion is a moral issue, not a political one, yet there are well meaning Christians who are Pro-Choice and on the wrong side of this issue. 

In the middle of that broken world are people who are searching for meaning to life and they aren’t finding it in secular gods.  There is an emptiness that only God can fill.  The god of self is predominant in the next generation.  It is a myopic and short sided view of life, and one which won’t lead to a fulfilled life knowing you are following God’s direction in your life.

I have found that the next generation is consistently open to mentors.  Their problem?   The supply of mentors is miniscule compared to the need. It is a supply/demand unbalance. That can only be fixed if the older generation will follow the call to “go” – in this case to mentor the next generation. 

I have described mentoring as getting out of the stands as a spectator and moving to the sidelines to coach others. You don’t need a degree in theology (that’s another topic). You just need some real world experiences that you can pass on.  Being a spectator is passive. Being a mentor or coach is being engaged and active, which is what Jesus has called us to do.

To those in the next generation aching to have a mentor, take heart and take the initiative.  Use the same strategy and engage someone in the older generation that you admire and who you think might be helpful to you by walking beside you.  Some in the older generation, when asked why they haven’t mentored answer:  “I’ve never been asked.”  That’s pretty lame, but you have nothing to lose. Don’t wait for them to ask you.  Do it yourself.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   To the mentees reading this, I suggest that the title of Engage applies to you as well.  If you want someone to help you over the bumps in life and invest in you, you may well be the one who has to go on the offense and do the asking.

WORSHIP: Overcomer – Mendissa

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The Great Awokening

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholywithout love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. 2 Timothy 3:1-4

This title is not original, but it suits my purpose.  My blog is read throughout the world, so I try and write on topics that have a broader audience than just in the United States. The issue of the secular culture encroaching into Christianity is a common thread in every corner of the world.

Culture wars in each country may be different, or they may be the same. Here, we have faced unprecedented clash of cultural issues which have affected the church, even to the point of splintering the Evangelical Church into several different ideologies. 

The impact of culture into the Church is not new. It takes many forms, so the one form I am writing about here is just an example, and the question for each reader is to figure out what other forms of cultural appropriation are being made by the Church today.

The Great Awokening, of course, is a play on words of The Great Awakening, which occurred in colonial times in the 18th century.  The colonies were populated by many who were seeking religious freedom.  As they tamed the land and became prosperous, they began to lose their dependence on God for their daily bread. 

In order to increase church attendance, the religious leaders adopted the Halfway Covenant which permitted church membership without a public testimony of their conversion. This resulted in the church being attended by those who had not professed a faith in Jesus Christ.  

Theologians like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield started praying for revival, often praying for hours before an event occurred. Edwards was not a gifted public speaker but was instrumental in spreading revival.  His most famous sermon was “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” which he preached in 1741.

Fast forward to today where we live in a post-Christian and post-modern world.   Moral relativism has replaced biblical morality and ethics. Science and self-identity are the new gods.  The guardrails of biblical morality have been left in the rear view mirror, and truth is no longer seen as a virtue. 

Enter 2020 which arrived with a pandemic and the chaos which ensued due to lockdowns and other social limits on interaction. It seemed like overnight a new narrative of being woke emerged with a vengeance in America and elsewhere.  All of a sudden, everything had a racial overtone, and curriculums using the 1619 Project were adopted in over 4,500 public schools, even though it is historically inaccurate. 

The comparisons to The Great Awakening are interesting.  The Great Awakening was a religious movement and a move of the Holy Spirit in the minds and hearts of colonists.  The Great Awokening, on the other hand, has been likened to a secular religious movement and even described  as a “religion growing faster than Christianity” by Victor David Hanson.

It has also been called a form of a cult because no one is permitted to challenge the ideology or you will be canceled or labeled racist. 

Teachers unions are supporting wokeness and the advancement of Critical Race Theory (CRTcurriculum in public schools (K-12).  In doing so, they have taken the position that they alone are responsible for what kids learn, not the parents. 

In fact, the unions have gone so far as to target those who oppose CRT in schools. At least 25 public school districts are pushing a kids’ book which describes ‘whiteness’ as a “contract with the devil”.

CRT is based on the premise that our country has no ideals worth following according to historian Walter McDougall. That is vastly different than saying the country has not lived up to its ideals, which is a fairer analysis. McDougall continues: “the woke either don’t know how to think historically or don’t want to think historically.”

In essence, CRT is based on historical falsehoods yet are being advanced with religious zeal by many institutions in our country. It is divisive at its core and pits blacks against whites which somehow ignores that we are a multi-cultural country and that Asians and others have also suffered discrimination.

We may be at the time in our history to do what Jonathan Edwards did in the 18th century.  He saw the need to pray for a revival in a culture that had lost its dependence on God.   It has worked before, but only because of the prayers of the faithful.

Culture wars are not new in the annals of Christianity. We live in a fallen world. It has been that way since Adam and Eve. At times, it seems overwhelming, yet we, as Christians have a hope that non-believers do not.   

We are responsible for our own actions and are called by Christ to disciple all nations and ethnicities. There are no racial bounds for that. 

As parents, mentors and leaders, we need to be lights in a dark world and stand tall for the gospel, but always being careful to understand what our biblical worldview requires of us in a fallen culture.   We should be fearless in bringing Kingdom beliefs, values and Jesus’ ways of living into the world.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Your mentee may have been indoctrinated at school with unbiblical teachings on race. You can be the bridge to help them understand God’s love for them is unconditional.

FURTHER READING:  

The Six Way Fracturing of Evangelicalism – Graham

History of the Great Awakening – Christianity.com

Church of Woke: Next American Religion?  CSS

Critical Race Theory is the Racial Version of Marxism – Huang

The Great Awokening: A Secular Religious Revival – Musa al-Gharbi

CRT: What Christians Need to Know –Christianity Today

WORSHIP:  Overcome – Jeremy Camp

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Legacy

                                              

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 78:18

At some point in your life, you start to think about what your legacy is – what have you deposited in others that will survive and thrive.  We now know through science that our DNA is transmitted to your heirs but that is only part of the equation.  

I’ve thought about this a lot, particularly when my father died. In looking back over his life, I realized that he left a lot of himself behind in me. Not just his DNA, but the humor, insights and values of another generation.  I regret that I didn’t follow his musical footsteps but singing on a worship team at Church in my 70’s has brought me much joy.

I spoke at his funeral and described his  personality and attributes and how he always managed to make people feel better – either through music or his humor. Some of his jokes were really dumb but you laughed at them anyway.  Some of them were a little off color, but he was always careful not to offend anyone.

One memorable moment was in 1993 when I asked him to join me on a trip to San Francisco for a law management meeting. He had deep roots in San Francisco – that’s where he met and married my mother. My sister was born there in 1942. He lived in three different places in the Bay Area so he knew it well.

I was in all-day meetings on Friday, so he rented a car and toured San Francisco on his own. He was 78 at the time. My management group invited him to join us for dinner which he really enjoyed, and they treated him like royalty.

On Saturday, we toured San Francisco – including the usual tourist spots like Coit Tower, riding the trolleys and driving over the Golden Gate Bridge to eat lunch in Sausalito. We ate in a restaurant with a stunning view of San Francisco across the bay. 

On Sunday, we decided to go to Napa Valley, then home to some 250 plus wineries. When he lived in San Francisco in the 1930’s, there were only a dozen.  

We had great conversations – often nostalgic on his part. He described what the areas were like when he lived there some 60 years before. At our dinner on the night before we returned, I recounted every trip we had gone on as a family with details he had long forgotten. 

We didn’t take many trips as a family – that was an age when family travel was not as easy. Trips were usually by car so the places you visited were often not very far away.  We went to DC one spring – I recalled the hotel we stayed in and every place we visited including the U.S. Mint where they print money. 

Fast forward to today.  The memory of trips with my parents left an indelible mark on me and probably sparked my joy of travel. I have visited close to 90 countries and all 50 states in my lifetime.  I’m not done yet.

That legacy has been passed on to my children. All of them enjoy travel. My eldest, Bill III, has taken it to a new level and traveled to over 125 countries. The others have had their own travel experiences. My daughter went with InterVarsity to Solo, Indonesia one summer to teach ESL.

My other son married into an Italian family and has spent a couple of summers renting a house in Tuscany. He is spending his New Year’s holiday in Uruguay which will be his second visit with his family. 

I have often wondered why travel is so compelling. I think the answer is because it creates memories that don’t go away. That’s why we now travel with our grandchildren – something that my parents were unable to do.  We have our health, and as long as we are able we will continue that tradition.

We have now taken all nine grandchildren on separate trips – the last one was with the two youngest to a Dude Ranch in Wyoming. They loved it. Since all of the grandchildren have been on at least one trip, I am thinking of more things and places to do, which excites them.

Sis and I decided long ago that our legacy was not just the imprint we left on our children, but also on our grandchildren. We want them to know us intimately – not by what we say, but who we are and “who’s” we are.  We are trying to pass “it” on to the next generation.  

The “it” is a life in love with God who put us on this earth for His glory, not our own. That’s what we are here for. It is a higher calling, although it plays out in the horizontal with them.  They know that when I pray before a meal, I will always pray a blessing on our entire family “top to bottom” which is my shorthand to include everyone. 

In the same way, a mentor can pour himself into a mentee. Perhaps their family circumstances haven’t been the best, and no one really cared about them. I spent one session with a mentee getting him to tell me his life story. I took notes.  He noticed and said: “no one has ever paid this much attention to me.”  Nuff said.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your mentee may not have had someone take an interest in his life. You can make a difference in a life, one life at a time. You can leave a legacy in someone else. 

WORSHIP:  The Great Day – Michael Smith/Darlene Zschec

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Picture: My two sons and my son in law with me on a trail ride near Yellowstone Park, Wyoming.