Miracles

IMG_2110

 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, Acts 19:11

 One of the topics that always seems to escape a lot of attention is miracles. Not just the ones that Jesus and Paul performed throughout their ministry, but miracles in the here and now. Things that have happened without any logical or rational explanation. I know people are often unwilling to ascribe some experience as a being a “miracle”.

Jesus healed the sick, the lame, and restored sight to the blind. He walked on water, changed water into wine and raised Lazarus from the dead. But when we are asked about our faith, we revert to theological analysis. We often point to the resurrection – the empty tomb – as evidence of Jesus deity, leaving all of his miracles in the dust.

In our world, we often think of remarkable experiences in terms of luck, although I have distanced myself from the word “luck” because it has the same root word from which we get “Lucifer”.    I guess I’ve always associated “luck” with the dark side ever since.

I have two stories to tell.  Both are personal, so I can say, without contradiction, that I didn’t get these from someone who told them, who got it from someone who told them. These are first person experiences.

One happened this week. I was finishing a 30-mile bike ride out in the country, and was hit from behind by a car doing 35 miles per hour. Now, that is an invitation to trauma, even for someone who is not 72.  All I can remember is the noise and impact and then lying in the road taking inventory of my body. Most things appeared to be working.

A volunteer fireman, who witnessed the accident, helped me up and over to the side of the road where I sat until the ambulance came. I felt a little woozy on my feet, so they took me to the Emergency Room where they observed me, took x-rays and a CAT scan to be sure that I wasn’t bleeding internally.

The EMS told me that he was amazed I wasn’t hurt more.  In his experience of cars striking persons on bikes, they don’t end well for the bike rider. He said the last collision was between a biker and a golf cart, and the biker ended up being airlifted to Chapel Hill with head injuries that required specialty treatment at a trauma center.

The ER doctor told me that anyone who is 72 and is hit by a car doing 35 must have something wrong with them, and he was committed to finding it.  All tests were negative. No broken bones, no internal bleeding.

After 5 hours, they released me and I walked out of the ER with nothing more than a couple of abrasions (one on my right knee that a Band-Aid could cover, and one on my left elbow).  Admittedly, I was a little sore from where the car struck me.

The other story occurred about 6 years ago when I had just been diagnosed with Prostate cancer.  I was attending a ministry dinner for the MentorLink board members and their spouses which precedes our board meetings the next day. I revealed my recent diagnosis, and the gathering put me in a wing chair to lay hands on me and pray.

Included in the group praying for me was Diana Green, a board member’s wife. She arrived at the dinner with a black ace bandage on her elbow.  She explained that she had damaged her funny bone in her elbow which she described as not very funny, and in fact, very painful. She couldn’t even hold a dinner plate with it, and her husband, Floyd, had to help her through the buffet line.

Wonderful prayers for healing and encouragement ensued.  When it was over, and everyone said “Amen”, Diana stood up, wiggled her hurt arm a couple of times, took of the bandage and exclaimed that it her elbow didn’t hurt anymore. She never had a problem with it again.

What do these two stories have in common?  Well, the latter one is the power of healing demonstrated through prayer. For the record, my treatment for prostate cancer went well, but it was not as remarkable as Diana’s healing.  I’ve known her for 35 years, and can attest that she isn’t one to make something like that up.

As for my accident, all I can say is that God protected me in a remarkable way. Put another way, He’s not done with me yet. Driving home from the ER, Sis said she had a premonition that I had an accident, and wasn’t sure whether she would be planning my funeral on the next day. The accident shook her to the core.

That puts the accident in perspective:  being able to walk out of the hospital with not much more than a couple of bruises and small abrasions is hard to explain after being hit by a car doing 35 mph.

Why am I writing about these two incidents? Well, for one thing, we often don’t share stories about our miracles, which is part of our testimony.  When someone comes up to you and is skeptical about your faith, we often think about saying something that is biblical that will keep them open to the gospel.

We quickly forget the miracles which happen to us and all around us.  Miracles demonstrate God’s power and intervention in our lives.  Why do I believe in God?  Well, for one thing, I know when God’s hand is on me.  Yesterday was one of those times when I was protected.  You don’t have to be a bible scholar to tell what God has done for you.

Our challenge is to remember the miracles in your life. Be sure to share them with others as a testimony of God’s goodness which is so undeserved. That’s what grace is all about.  One thing that has struck me is that God’s grace is there in every circumstance, even a bicycle accident.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Share miracles in your lives with your mentees. It will be an encouragement to know that God is real and that He is in the miracle business today.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Your Grace is Enough”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

One Another

                                           footwashing

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  John 13:14-16

Years ago, I noticed a number of passages in the Bible which referred to things that we should do in relationship with others.  I started marking passages in the margin of my bible with “o/a” which signified “one another”.

The passages mostly come from the New Testament where we are given guidance on how we are to live out our faith in community with others.  The first four books of the New Testament emphasize our vertical relationship with God through Jesus.

The rest of the New Testament has a greater focus on the horizontal – how we live with each other, our family, friends and community.  It makes an interesting study.

Here’s a partial list that I developed – both verses and content. I came up with over 30 of them.  There may be more.

  1. Love one another.  John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:14
  2. Wash one another’s feet.  John 13:14
  3. Encourage one another.  Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, 1 Thess. 5:11 and 4:18
  4. Pray for one another. James 5:16
  5. Build up one another.  Romans 14:19, 1 Thess. 5:11
  6. Serve one another.  Galatians 5:13
  7. Teach and admonish one another.  Colossians 3:16
  8. Confess your sins to one another.  James 5:16
  9. Don’t judge one another.  Romans 14:13
  10. Carry one another’s burdens.  Galatians 5:13
  11. Submit to one another.  Ephesians 5:21
  12. Forgive one another.  Colossians 4:13, Colossians 3:13
  13. Comfort one another.  2 Corinthians 6:12
  14. Do not provoke one another. Galatians 5:26
  15. Be kind to one another.  1 Thessalonians 5:15. 2 Corinthians 6:12
  16. Be kind and compassionate with one another. Ephesians 4:32
  17. Bear with and forgive one another. Colossians 3:13
  18. Spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10:24
  19. Do not slander one another. James 4:11
  20. Offer hospitality to one another. 1 Peter 4:9

This list of “one-anothers” is very practical. It amplifies how loving one another looks like.  If you do all the things on this list to others, you have learned to love them in very practical ways.

But it’s a long list of “to do’s”.  Jesus simplified the list with an overarching set of priorities. He made it simple for us.  We are to first love God and then we should love one another.  Simple.  Straight forward.

To Jesus, you love one another by serving them.  In John 13:12-17, Jesus gives this remarkable statement:  “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Love serves.  Love does.  It results in an action of serving others in a variety of ways. That’s how we “one another” – “one another”.  We serve them.

So, how do you best serve others?  That’s going to be different for every one of us.  It depends on your gifts, your talents, your passions – how you are hard-wired, as it were.

God made each of us is different (my wife is glad of that). One of the roles of a mentor is to help the mentee to find his purpose in life – what God intended for that individual.

It takes time and patience for some of us to figure it out, but the mentor can aid the discussion by providing a sounding board and asking questions.  It is not a science – it is more like art.

It takes time for the mentor to help the mentee figure out his strengths/weaknesses and his gifts and talents, and then help guide them towards figuring out the vision for their life. (Note: it is not the vision of the mentee, not the mentor,  that is important.).

The challenge is, and has been for two millennia, to learn to love and serve one another. One role of serving that has dropped through the cracks of our culture in the past century is the role of mentor in others’ lives.   It’s a way that you can serve the next generation.

If you have some gray hair, you need to realize that the next generation around you are looking for your input, but you may not have noticed.  Take time today to invest in someone else’s life – to wash their feet, as it were, by your spending time with them and helping them become all that God wants them to be. That would be a good way to serve “one another”.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can serve the next generation by coming alongside them.  It’s not hard and certainly not complicated. It’s what Jesus did, and you can do it too.

WORSHIP:   Listen to The Power of Your Name where the lyric goes “I will give with the life that I have been given, and go beyond religion to see the world be changed by the power of your name

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

Multiplication

multiply

 This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.   1 John 2:5,6

This may be the most unused topic in Christianity. Think about it: how many times have you heard a sermon on multiplication?  I’m willing to bet the answer is none.  One of the keys to Christianity is multiplication. It is a kingdom principle, yet it is a one that is largely ignored by most mainstream churches.

When I was growing up, one of the things we had to learn was the multiplication tables. We started out with 1 times 2, and worked our way up to 9 times 9. We did it repetitively until we finally mastered them.  This was basic to learning more complicated things in mathematics.

Multiplication, of course, is different from addition.  Before we learned multiplication tables, we had to learn addition, then subtraction.  It was just another arithmetic process in order advance our mathematical skill for more complicated functions later.

Pastors in the world think “addition”, but not “multiplication”. They think about adding one plus one, usually in the context of growing their congregations which becomes their metric for their “success”.  They don’t think about adding one who adds one, who adds one, who adds one, etc.   This is commonplace with pastors in the developing world.

Many pastors in the developing world haven’t thought about duplicating leaders – bringing and training up a replacement for example.  As a result, if something happens to a pastor in a church, the church often dies or is weakened.

Pastors are not the only ones who ignore the multiplication principle.  It applies to every believer for we belong to the “priesthood of believers.”  One of the things a believer should do is follow Jesus in our lives, and make His priorities our priorities. As the passage says, if we are in Him, we will live as Jesus lived. Seeing how He built the Kingdom should be instructional to us.

Jesus didn’t mass produce leaders or disciples. Instead, He intentionally focused on a small number of them.  His model wasn’t to rent an auditorium and have large leadership classes. Instead, He developed close personal relationships with promising men and women and invested time with them by mentoring them.

But his mentoring had one goal which included the concept of multiplication.  He took on a small number of disciples, who took on a small number of disciples, who took on a small number of disciples, and the results were exponential.

We use the following illustration to get people to realize the difference between multiplication and addition. Imagine that I have a $100 bill in one hand and a $1 bill in the other.  I ask my audience: Would you rather that: (a) I give you $100 a day for 30 days, or (b) I give you $1 a day doubled every day (so day two you would get $2 and day three you would get $4)?

Without thinking, many have chosen (a) – which results in $3,000.  They often focus on the fact that $100 looks like real money, and $1 seems so small. If, however, you had chosen (b) – i.e., getting $1 a day doubled for 30 days, you would have chosen well. It would be worth $536,870,912.  Just a little more than $3,000.

Jesus was in the disciple making business, but His principle was to have disciples making disciples, not for him to do it. He only spent three years with his disciples, knowing that His time on earth was short. In Matthew 28, He exhorts us in the Great Commission to “Go make disciples of all nations.” He understood the power of multiplication.

My illustration shows is the difference between addition and multiplication. It has a huge implication on how you approach ministry. You might think that mentoring one man or woman (or a small group) may not be significant, but if you instill in them the kingdom principle to mentor others, you start down the path of how Jesus built His kingdom.

The absence of this principle in modern-day Christianity can have catastrophic effects. As I have noted before, France was 75% Christian two generations ago.  Now it is 5%. I’ve heard the saying that Christianity has been one generation away from extinction for 2000 years. That’s a simplification, but there is an element of truth to it.

To those out there who have a ministry to small groups or even just one-on-one mentoring, the multiplication principle must be instilled in your audience.  It’s not enough for your audience to just soak up your investment in them. As the passage above suggests, “if you are to have Jesus in you, then you must live as Jesus did”.  Note the word is “must”, not “should” or “might”.  It is an imperative, not an option.

How did Jesus live and build His kingdom?  He lived by selecting a few disciples, and mentoring them over three years. They, in turn, mentored others (Barnabas, Timothy, etc.).  That’s how Jesus did it. That’s how he wants us to do it. We need to think multiplication, not addition.

The challenge here is to be aware that the kingdom principle of multiplication must be passed on to the next generation.  They need to own it and take responsibility to pass on what you are teaching them to others. This kingdom value that must be instilled in all that you mentor or minister to.  Without multiplication, you end up with $3,000 instead of over $536 million in the illustration.  A big difference, but quite achievable.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Be sure to instill in your mentees a mindset of multiplication. Get them to live as Jesus did by mentoring someone else who mentors someone else, and so on.

FURTHER STUDY:  For your kids or grandkids, you can go online and have them learn multiplication with flash cards:  http://www.learninggamesforkids.com/math_multiplication_games.html

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “God of the City” where the lyrics say, “Greater things have yet to be done in this City”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

Learning

studygroup.jpg

 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—  you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?  Romans 2:19-20

 I’ve written several posts that touched on this topic. Several of them have focused on the changes in teaching where colleges are abandoning the traditional lecture in favor of a participatory small group session that discusses the material (See Get it Got it Good and more recently, Outside the Box). It’s called the “flipped classroom.”

A recent podcast interviewing Dr. Britt Andreatta give credence to the brain science behind learning.  My research has already convinced me that much of our learning models in schools and college are ineffective. After reading this short piece and listening to the podcast, I now know the reason why.

Dr. Andreatta has several interesting points on how we learn.  Learning occurs in three separate phases, using different parts of the brain. It starts in our hippocampus which is where we begin the learning process. This is short-term memory.  According to the science, you need about 20 minutes of processing in the hippocampus to enable you to retain content in your memory.

The second phase is remembering – putting the information into your long-term memory so that it can be retrieved some time later – even years later.  Years ago, this was accomplished by repetition – memorizing things like multiplication tables or words.  Remembering is best accomplished when the content connects with something that the person already knows or has experienced before.

The interesting thing is that the retrieval method (i.e. pulling the information out of your brain) works best if you do the retrieval with intervals of sleep. The “sweet spot” is to retrieve information three times separated by sleep. To me, that’s an “aha” moment. I remember folks in college pulling “all-nighters”, trying to stuff their brain with course material on the night before the exam. It was all short-term memory, and not much stuck for the rest of the semester.

According to brain science, this is a poor method, which is something I intuitively learned in college. A good teacher will require retrieval of information three separate times to ensure that the information is getting stored into your long-term memory.

The third part of learning involves changing behavior, which involves making new habits. Brain science now says that you can change behavior. According to Dr. Andreatta, habits are formed when you have repeated something between 40 to 50 times. At that point, you have created a strong neural pathway or a habit.

As I read this explanation on learning, I couldn’t help but recall one of the disorders affecting the next generation which is called the “Google Effect” (see my post on Digital Dark Side). The Google Effect describes the effect of the digital world on our brains. The next generation has lost the ability to store information and, instead, use the digital world (Google, Bing, or others) to “keep” information instead of retaining it in their brains.

Dr. Andreatta uses this science in how she teaches young adults. She limits her talking to only 15 minutes (never more than 20). She always has her learners do some processing – possibly asking questions and then letting them either discuss it in a smaller group, or write about it, or even take a little assessment, which is a hands-on activity. If it’s a longer session, she does a wash-rinse-repeat by stringing together 15 minute sessions interspersed with a “processing” activity.

What’s interesting to me is how this affects interaction with the next generation. Already, institutions like businesses and professional sports are having to alter things to accommodate a shorter attention span.

Most millennials learn best by an interactive model which may explain why they value and want a mentor in their life. They don’t want lectures, either from you or anyone else.

Even churches can learn from this science of the brain. Long sermons (particularly in Africa) results in the least amount of retention. I don’t expect pastors to break up their audience into small discussion groups. Still, in other venues or seminars, this has proved to be the most effective mode of teaching.

After all, the goal of teaching is to be sure learning is happening. All too often, long-term learning does not take place, and based on brain science, it’s not just the fault of the audience. Sadly, many teachers (and even pastors) forget this goal.

The challenge here is to use this science in a way that helps you communicate effectively, whether to a large audience or small, or even your mentee. The next generation has some hurdles to overcome due to the digital age and its negative effect on learning.  We can be more effective knowing how the brain retains memory.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The process of mentoring is one of the most effective methods of learning.  It is interactive, and provides the next generation with a badly needed sounding board.

FURTHER STUDY:  To listen to the podcast by Dr. Britt Andreatta, here’s the link:

https://growingleaders.com/blog/three-phases-make-learning-stick-podcast-45/

Dr. Andreatta’s book, Wired to Grow discusses this topic in more depth. It is available from Amazon.

For information on the “flipped classroom”: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar13/vol70/num06/Evidence-on-Flipped-Classrooms-Is-Still-Coming-In.aspx

WORSHIP: Join Hillsong as they sing “You Said”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

Guardrails (Part II)

guardrails

 I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord… wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:4,5).

As suggested in a prior post, guardrails are quite simply those things outside of ourselves that keeps us from getting off the path.  In the above picture, the guardrails protect cars from plunging down a cliff.

As the above passage notes, we will have an ultimate accounting of our lives before the Lord.  Yet, I don’t find it to be something in the top of my mind every moment of the waking day.  In fact, I would have to admit that my behavior is rarely dictated by the thought that my day-to-day actions will face scrutiny of God.    For me, it is not a strong guardrail.  I am not alone.

In a post-modern, post-Christian era, the next generation suffers from a lack of value formation which often results in bad choices.  They don’t have the guardrails of a biblical view of life. Their bad choices, can and often do, last for a lifetime.  The unwanted teenage pregnancy, for example, often results in the inability for the mother to finish her education.  In turn, that results in an inability to get a reasonable job to support her family. The child also becomes a victim of this bad choice.

This point was driven in years ago at a lunch with several of my close friends.  Three of them were seminary graduates. They were lamenting the fall from grace by a seminary colleague who had an affair which ruined his marriage and cost him his job as a senior pastor.  He made a bad choice. There was a disbelief by my friends that knew him well that this man could have made that kind of mistake. Before this failure, he was perceived as above reproach.

It dawned on all of us, that if this man could fail, we all could fail.  No one is exempt. One man in our group, though took a different tack. He said that his marriage was too important to him to blow it on an affair.  In effect, he was saying fear of consequences kept him between the guardrails.

Another guardrail came out of that discussion. In interviews with 200 pastors who had moral failures, one thing was missing:  they had no one to hold them accountable. They had no one who could ask them questions about their thought life or how they were doing spiritually or emotionally. No one to ask them what God was teaching them in the word.

I have developed a close relationship with these men who have acted in one capacity as being an accountability group (although we don’t call it that).  We have met together almost weekly for 25 years. When we get together, we share each other’s lives – the good and the bad- along with the challenges we face.  It’s really a peer mentor group, although we didn’t apply that label to it until recently.

The theme of accountability has been a strong influence in my life.  I have urged others to adopt it. While I have failed in my own weak areas from time to time, my failures have been kept in check in by knowing that my failure would be subject to periodic reviews by others.

Before high speed internet, most sexual failures were the physical kind – people having affairs or being unfaithful. Now the issue is more complicated, particularly with the next generation.  Online pornography (and to a certain extent gaming which has taken a turn to violence and sexual content) is readily available on every smartphone, iPhone, iPad or computer.

The negative impact of pornography is only now emerging, partly because researchers have been unable to find enough participants in the next generation who did not view online porn. Thus, the classic two group study of the outcomes of participants – one group having viewed porn and one group that had not – failed because of the lack of one group.

I take it as a given with the next generation that porn is an issue in their lives.  When speaking about mentoring, I bring this up as a topic because of its prevalence. As a mentor, one of our tasks is to probe into the dark areas of a mentees’ life, and hopefully help them bring light to it.

I recall reading recently that the most effective antidote for dealing with pornography was having an accountability partner or mentor. Made sense to me, given the results of the study of the 200 pastors who had affairs.  Having someone to whom you are accountable to increases the likelihood of success by some 5 times more than anything else.

In James 5:16, we are admonished to confess our sins to one another so that you may be healed.  That’s what accountability looks like in scripture in the horizontal world. Yes, we are accountable to God, but if one is serious about his faith and walk as a follower of Christ, I submit that accountability to another person is a guardrail that we all need.

The challenge here is to recognize the issues facing the next generation. Changes in technology have created new threats that didn’t exist until just recently. One of the tasks that we have as mentors is to help the next generation face these issues head on and not keep them in the dark. Urge them to seek an accountability partner or mentor.  The Christian life is a team sport, as I have said many times.  Having a teammate to whom you are accountable is an invaluable guardrail for your life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors should be aware of issues that face the next generation. While the issues may be general in nature, it is quite possible that your mentee struggles with one of more of them. You can be guardrails in somebody’s life.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Kari Jobe sing “I Am Not Alone”.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guardrails (I)

crash-barrier-254028_1280

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 1 Corinthians 5:10

When you go into a restaurant and have finished your meal, you often motion to your server that you want the check.  In French, it’s called “l’addition” and in German “rechnung”.  In English, you just ask for the bill.

When you get the bill, you usually check to see that you’ve been charged correctly.  Why do you check the bill? Well, it’s because you want to be sure that it is a correct accounting of your meal before you pay. If it is accurate, you can then pay the bill.

In life, we have a final accounting.  It’s on the last day, when we stand before God with Christ at our side as our advocate. He looks at our life just as we review our restaurant bill – to see if what we’ve accomplished in life – good or bad – will be deserving of praise.  That’s the ultimate accountability. Fortunately, God has erased the bad from our record by sending His son to the cross to die for our sins.

Still, we face an accounting for our actions and deeds on earth as detailed in scripture, although we don’t often act like it, myself included. We often get off the path and slip into the weeds – in many ways and every day.  An angry retort or giving in to a temptation that has plagued you. We often aren’t serious about our sins, and think God will just excuse them at the end.

That would be a mistake and a misreading of scripture. It’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” where we recognize that we are under grace and forgiven, so we can just go on living our lives as if sinning no longer matters.

Why did I use the word “Guardrails” and the above picture?  By guardrails, I am referring to those metal safety devices that you see on highways what keeps your car on the road in case of an accident.  Without them, your car may go over the side.

I have found that my conduct in life has been a function of several different guardrails over time.  I will talk about some of them that helped me and others in this and subsequent posts.  I have asked the question of others: “What has kept you on track in your life?”  Essentially, what “guardrails” in your life kept you from going astray.

One set of guard rails are the innate set of values that tells you what is wrong and what is right. Those values keep you on the road so you don’t have a wreck. The next generation, in this post-Christian age, do not have that innate sense of right or wrong which most of us grew up with in a Christian culture. Put another way, they don’t have a strong set of values that act as guardrails.

They have left the biblical moorings of the prior generation, so moral absolutes don’t apply any more. It’s as if someone has removed the guard rails of morality in their lives.  Their conduct is likely to be more dictated by peers than by any sense of right or wrong.  That’s a dangerous and slippery slope, particularly for a generation which has extended adolescence into their late 20’s or early 30’s.

Their attitudes about drugs, sexuality (and homosexuality,) are not based on any biblical understanding.  Ditto for abortion. Their attitudes are framed by their culture. Some have called this generation the “hook-up” generation. Studies and research is clear on this topic. They have lost the values of the prior generation which acted as a set of guard rails to guide them.

I met a man who told me that he knows a businessman in eastern North Carolina who is looking for employees who will start at $50,000 a year salary, but they cannot find ones that can pass the drug tests.  Almost all have used drugs. Out of desperation, he now hires employees that have tested positive for drug use but otherwise appear promising, and then sends them to a rehab to get them to clean up before he puts them to work.

This is one example of behavior based on peer attitudes without any concern for consequences. Another is the example of babies born out-of-wedlock which now represents 40% of all births in the US today. In the black community, it soars to 73%, and many women have babies by more than one father.  It’s very commonplace, and is now baked into their culture so that it will take years to reverse.

In many cases, the father is totally out of the picture when it comes to raising a child.  In 2014, Pew did a study and only 62% of children under 18 live in a household with a father and a mother as parents.  This is a historic low.

The unwed mother loses, too – she often gets pregnant at a young age when she hasn’t completed her education, so that when she is the sole bread-winner in the family, she has insufficient skills or education to get a good paying job.  The studies bear this out.

Low economic circumstances are devastating in its long-term effect on the children. In a 2015 Pew study, lower-income families cause several limits to the maturity of the children. Sometimes, it is a limit on growing up in a safe environment, or even being exposed to enriching activities that more affluent parents take for granted.  Children from lower incomes don’t have access to positive after-school activities.

The child loses – they are left to be raised in a one parent household, and studies show that this is not a good environment.  Society loses, too, because many of these unwed mothers become dependent on welfare – handouts from the government – which is expensive and does nothing to address the real issues.

So, how does one navigate life to be sure that our choices and conduct is kept “between the guardrails.” Based on my experience, that there are things that helped me make proper choices.  The first of these is a well-developed set of values (See my post on Values).  Those imbedded values are the basis of many decisions.

The second one is fear of consequences.  I know this is a negative motivation, but most people I know would say the same thing.  We are called to be holy in scripture, but too often, it is the fear of consequences that rules the day.  I can’t say that I focus about standing before God on the last day when I make critical choices.  I am more motivated by what others who I respect would think of my conduct.

Two things are happening:  first, the next generation are not getting a balanced set of values exhibited by good role models.  Recent studies confirm that the traditional family with a mom and a dad leads to better outcomes of the children, which contradicts the liberal advocacy that single gender parents are just as good.

Secondly, they are not getting any discipline.  Parental discipline results in the fear of consequences for bad behavior. It is usually the father figure that is the disciplinarian in the family, and if he is not present, there is nothing to fill in the void.

They then look at the culture and their peers for the answers. Unfortunately, adolescents can’t differentiate what is a good path or a bad path, and if they don’t have any good role models or mentors around them, they are adrift.

The challenge here is enormous.  I really don’t know where to start because the trend of diverse families – either single parents, or same-sex parents – is a societal issue beyond my ability to reverse.  But I can reach out to someone in the next generation that might have a gap in their life in their upbringing and help them along the way.  It’s called mentoring, and anyone can do it.  Even you!

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: While you are not a parent to your mentee, you can provide him or her with a biblical role model that they may not have encountered before.  Just being there and listening to them is a valuable resource for their development. Y

FURTHER STUDY:  For the Pew research on parenting: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/

Pew Research on growing diversity of families:http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/

Studies showing value of traditional family unit on outcomes of children: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jun/10/study-children-fare-better-traditional-mom-dad-fam/

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin and Passion sing “We Fall Down”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

Procrastination

crossroads

 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build. Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

 My simple definition of procrastination is putting off until tomorrow that which you should do today. We don’t often procrastinate about things we like to do.  Instead, we tend to delay doing things that are not so interesting or fun.  In my case, I never like to get ready to do my annual income tax return.

A friend of mine who was chairman of my law firm had a description of something he called the “green monster”.  A “green monster” was a file on every attorney’s desk that had sat untouched for so long that it had started to be covered with green moss.  We all have green monsters in our life.

We live in a world where procrastination is rampant in the next generation.  I’ve written about the delay of young adults’ emergence into adulthood.  The millennials are often increasing adolescence until their early 30’s.

What are the marks of adulthood?  Well, for most it involves leaving home, completing all education, being financially independent, and often getting married.

According to Robert Wuthrow, 77% of adolescents had achieved independence by age 30 in the 1960’s (these were the Baby Boomers).  That number has dropped to only 46% of women and 30% of men by 2000.

Pew Research studies in 2016 show that 40% of young people aged 18-34 now live with their parents. The studies attribute these numbers partially to economic factors, but part of it is because the propensity of young adults to procrastinate in making decisions or commitments.

The trend of extended adolescence didn’t just start with the millennials.  It also affected Generation X – the generation born before 1980.  In her book New Passages, author Gail Sheehy wrote about the delayed emergence of adolescents into adulthood in 1985.

Sheehy’s thesis was that the usual benchmarks of life which the Boomers observed have been pushed back by 10 years. Adulthood for a Boomer was achieved by age of 21, whereas the newer generation had their emergence as an adult delayed until age 30.

The issues for the millennials are more complex because they have so many choices arrayed to them. For some reason, they are paralyzed when making decisions with the result that they often spend time trying to “find themselves” first before they make a commitment.

I am currently meeting with one young man who is struggling to reenter the workforce having volunteered for a disaster aid agency. He is looking for meaningful work which matches the level of fulfillment he received by working for a non-profit.

He’s struggling with choices and has deferred making commitments. Based on my research and personal experience with other millennials, he is not alone.

In my prior life, I call this the paralysis of analysis. It came from observing young lawyers who could argue both sides of an issue.  But in the real world, the client wants your opinion as to the best course of action, not an evenly balanced presentation of all the options.

We often hesitate to commit based on what is God’s will for our life.  What I have found is that often God’s will is best seen in hindsight, not as something directly from God as to what direction or choice I should make. It’s a clash between God’s will for our lives and our free will which He also gave us.

Kevin DeYoung has written a pithy book entitled Just Do Something. As the title suggests, he advocates that the next generation make a decision even if one is unsure if it is the right or best decision. He notes that God rarely tells us what to do, so waiting around for that “word” from above may prove fruitless.

It’s our job to make the best decision we can, relying not just on our own intellect, but also getting the benefit of the wise counsel of a mentor or a Godly friend. No matter what the decision is, we know that God will be with us regardless of the outcome.

Ultimately, it is a leap of faith – deciding and then relying on God to be by our side and rely on Him for the outcome.  At an early age, most decisions are rarely fatal or irreversible if they prove to be wrong.

Our challenge is to help the next generation take baby steps towards decisions and commitments. Sitting on the sidelines waiting for the perfect job may be an exercise in futility. The role of a mentor is best exercised by drawing on relevant experiences or scripture to illustrate how they dealt with something similar.  We don’t make the decision for the mentee – that’s their job.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be a valuable sounding board for the next generation who get stuck trying to overanalyze decisions or commitments. Sometimes there are no bad answers, and just being there to help them consider the options is an invaluable resource.

FURTHER STUDY:  The Pew Research study on millennials living at home: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/30/the-real-reason-so-many-millennials-are-living-at-home/?utm_term=.ffac09bf0642

WORSHIP:  Join Passion sing “Better is One Day in Your Courts”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.