Grandparenting Matters

Grandparenting Matters

I did not grow up with grandparents.

We would receive Christmas gifts that would come unconnected to a voice or a face, a hug or a party.

The one time I met my only surviving grandparent was when my maternal “Opa” visited shortly before he died when I was about 18.

My Grandparents were sequestered to photos and stories. I believe I missed something of what they could have contributed, especially as my mother was widowed and left to raise six children without the support of extended family.

In those days I don’t recall grandparents living as long as they do now. My friends’ grandparents were somewhere between being disabled, demented, or diminishing fast.

So as I have become an “Opa”, I love the unique relationship I can have with my grandchildren – to enrich and edify, to hug and celebrate, to pray for and prepare them for life all from the “safe” distance of grandparenting.

I was intrigued about how “The Legacy Coalition” has thought about this generation of grandparents and grandchildren:

The Legacy Coalition:

Grandparents are incredibly important to their grandkids.
Grandparents are uniquely positioned to spiritually influence their grandkids.
Grandparents have a Biblical mandate to do so.

Most Christians agree with these statements about grandparents, but so little is being done to challenge and equip this huge group — 7.1 million strong in Canada — of potential influencers.

Yes, the grandparenting relationship has incredible potential for discipleship, but it is unrecognized and under-resourced…. [and] grandparents themselves get caught up in a “retirement culture” that pushes them to pursue their own pleasure rather than invest in their grandchildren.

Incredible Potential


Grandparents have incredible potential to influence the next generation — and a Biblical mandate to do it.

 A Biblical Pattern


Grandparents themselves often lack vision, need support and community, or don’t know of tools which can help.

 A New Course


We believe it is time to chart a new course — to engage this incredible potential by envisioning, encouraging, and equipping grandparents — through ministries in the local church.

For more see “What We’re Expecting” (7 Unbreakable Laws of Grandparents).

What memories do you have or your grandparents, and what insights do you have of grandparenting?

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Friendship: A Million Little Things

“Friendship is being able to have the hard conversations and be willing to listen… Friendship isn’t a big thing – it’s a million little things.”

“… and that’s true for a group of friends from Boston who bonded under unexpected circumstances. Some have achieved success, others are struggling in their careers and relationships, but all of them feel stuck in life. After one of them dies unexpectedly, it’s just the wake-up call the others need to finally start living. Along the way, they discover that friends may be the one thing to save them from themselves.”  (Citytv Synopsis. The show by the same name recently premiered September 26th).

Friendship has been a theme energizing me in the last few years especially as friends my age retire, move away, grasp at a lengthening distance, fall ill, or die. One of the unexpected joys of this stage of my life is to be making friends intergenerationally, and to be receiving friendship like an ever giving gift. It is is vitalizing and invigorating; it provokes me to contemplate the place of friendship along the long arc of our short lives.

The Proverbs tell us:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

God the Son, Jesus, is that friend who sticks closer than a brother; his friendship is the relationship that deepens every other friendship. His own example with his closest followers was to articulate the change to the relationship in John 15:15:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Having secrets made known includes the secret of being fully known as a person. The Apostle Paul writes:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Sadly, the friends portrayed in A Million Little Things find they are not “fully known”; their secrets threaten to doom them to catastrophic breakdown by the betrayal of what they thought was a profound trust-ship.

Recently Drew Hunter wrote: “You won’t make it alone: Five Reasons You need good Friends.” He begins:

As Australian nurse Bronnie Ware cared for the dying, she heard them express five common regrets again and again. So, what is one of the deepest regrets of the dying? Not prioritizing friendship. On our deathbeds, most of us will wish we connected more often, and more deeply, with friends.

We’re experiencing a friendship famine in our day. As individualism increases, social bonds decrease. And we replace flesh-and-blood relationships with digital illusions of the same. Studies show that Americans have fewer and fewer close friends. Many people don’t feel lonely, but when they stop to think about the depth of their relationships, they often realize that they are more isolated than they thought.

I want to plead with you to live the rest of your days rightly valuing this gift of true friendship. But if we’re going to value friendship as we should, we need to know why it’s so valuable. Why is friendship worth all the effort we can give it?

I suspect his reasons for good friendship are just five among a million little ones (read them here.)  Hunter ends his article with this encouragement:

… What next steps might you take to cultivate deeper friendships? Identify a few people and plan time to get together, such as a weekly rhythm of coffee or lunch. Reach out to a friend you’ve lost regular contact with. Plunge your conversations below the shallows and into the deeper waters of life. Oxygenate your friendships with affirmation and encouragement.

(@drewfhunter) is the author of Made for Friendship: The Relationship That Halves Our Sorrows and Doubles Our Joys. He is also the teaching pastor at Zionsville Fellowship in Zionsville, Indiana, where he lives with his wife, Christina, and their four sons.

What about your friendships?

Here’s to plunging below the shallows, and oxygenating our friendships with affirmation and encouragement.

Thanks to my friend Bob Foo who sent me the Drew Hunter article and who demonstrates many of a million little things of friendship.

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The ways You make us Holy

The ways You make us Holy

Oh the ways You make us holy
are the ways You make us humble
for from the humus we have come –
and to the humus we shall return
while every step on this earth
is a root in the soil of Your creation.

Just because we are planted in dirt
does not make us dirty,
but we never ascend far from the ground;
You, who are the centre and circumference,
garden the soul of our short cycle;
husband our branches and limbs.

Prune our un-fruited reaches
and bind up our bending boughs;
Till and weed the soil around
the core of our being,
for the ways You make us humble
are the ways You make us holy.

As we gather harvests of many kinds, bearing the fruit of labours, may you have a mindful and grateful Thanksgiving.

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Canadian punk rocker Avril Lavigne surprises with a worship song?

I couldn’t have said it any better than Dean Smith:

Avril Lavigne in Brasilia, Brazil in May, 2014 Credit: Breno Galtier/Wikipedia/Creative Commons Avril Lavigne in Brasilia, Brazil in May, 2014 Credit: Breno Galtier/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Canadian rock star Avril Lavigne, 34, has surprised everyone with the recent release of a song that some describe as a worship song.

Called Head Above Water, this was her first song after taking a five-year break from public life due to her battle with Lyme disease, an infectious debilitating disease commonly spread by ticks.

In 2015, she released information that she had been battling Lyme disease since 2014. The disease kept her bed ridden for months. On her website, Avril described how her struggle with the disease led to her most recent hit:

“One night, I thought I was dying, and I had accepted that I was going to die. My mom laid with me in bed and held me,” she said. “I felt like I was drowning. Under my breath, I prayed ‘God, please help…

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Broken Things

Broken Things, by Julie Miller

You can have my heart
Though it isn’t new
It’s been used and broken
And only comes in blue
It’s been down a long road
And it got dirty on the way
If I give it to you will you make it clean
And wash the shame away

You can have my heart
If you don’t mind broken things
You can have my life if you don’t mind these tears
Well I heard that you make old things new
So I give these pieces all to you
If you want it you can have my heart

So beyond repair
Nothing I could do
I tried to fix it myself
But it was only worse when I got through
Then you walked right into my darkness
And you speak words so sweet
And you hold me like a child
Till my frozen tears fall at your feet

You can have my heart
If you don’t mind broken things
You can have my life if you don’t mind these tears
Well I heard that you make old things new
So I give these pieces all to you
If you want it you can have
My heart

Written by: JULIE MILLER

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

Julie Miller (born Julie Griffin, July 12, 1956 in Waxahachie, Texas) is a songwriter, singer, and recording artist currently living in Nashville, Tennessee. She married Buddy Miller in 1981. They sing and play on each other’s solo projects and have recorded a duets album on HighTone Records.

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Prayer for the Day of Atonement

Angus Dei by Fransisco de Zurbarán

Prayer for the Day of Atonement

So then, let thy worshipful awe (fear), O Yahweh our God, come over all thy creatures,
and reverent dread of thee upon all thou has made,
that all thy creatures may be in awe of thee
and every being bow before thee
and that they may all become bonded together to do thy     will with all their hearts,
even as we know, O Yahweh our God,
   that thine is the Lordship,
   that might is in thy hand
   and power in they right hand
   and thy name exalted above all that thou hast created.

Day of Atonement: September 18/19

Source of prayer unknown

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Learning Humility

I suspect most people go to school to become expert, competent, respected and respectable. Who goes to school to be humbled; to be humble? And if you are so fortunate as to learn humility – to become humble, you will never be able to be proud about it, or to post some degree for achieving it… you will just have to live it.

As many return to full-time studies and schools of various sorts, may we be a people aware of the the curriculum of the spiritual life: below is an excerpted portion of Michael Jinkin’s insights on learning humility from the Rule of Benedict:

One day this summer, just a couple of weeks before the beginning of our fall term, I decided to read The Rule of St. Benedict straight through.

What began as an act of discipline, and, frankly, a bit of a chore, quickly became a delight. I had never before read the whole thing in one sitting, but reading it that way, especially right before the school year began, I saw parallels I had never before noticed between the mission of Benedict’s monastic community and that of the seminary.

… Benedict envisioned a learning community of a very specific sort. God calls people, says Benedict. But they need to learn and to be formed in order to live the life God calls them to live and to do the work which the Lord calls them to do. “Therefore,” Benedict writes in the Prologue to his Rule, “we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.” With a clarity that has never again been achieved in an official church document, Benedict writes what he calls a “little rule … for beginners.” (Rule, p. 96)

“In drawing up [the community’s] regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. Do not be daunted immediately and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”(Rule, pp. 18-19)

… Repeatedly, woven into instructions in almost every section of the Rule, one finds a reminder that community members are to live together in humility, competing with one another in doing good. Again and again, particularly in what I have come to regard as the heart of the Rule, chapter 4, “The Tools for Good Works,” Benedict marshals passages from every corner of Scripture to admonish the community members to love as Christ loved, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, to never repay evil with evil, to refrain from judging others, to renounce yourself and to reject pride. Closing this section, Benedict describes the community as a workshop, what we might call a laboratory, where all of these virtues are practiced daily until they become habitual. (Rule, pp. 26-29)

It was while reading this section that I remembered something that happened several years ago, in the first years of my tenure as the academic dean at another Presbyterian seminary. I led that faculty into a revision of the school’s curriculum. Before we began the fairly conventional work of looking directly at the curriculum, what we expected students to learn and how we envisioned that happening, we spent two years engaged in self-reflection and research, asking how we could better serve the church and society. In looking into the results of one of our research projects, as we disaggregated the findings of our study, isolating the responses of lay persons from those of ordained clergy and other groups, we found something fascinating.

When we asked the lay persons in congregations what they valued above all else in a church leader, they overwhelmingly said, “humility.”

This was especially surprising because, given the variety of populations we were polling, this finding hadn’t shown up before. The larger aggregated group included pastors, other church professionals such as Christian education directors, judicatory leaders and other religiously related professionals like chaplains, counsellors, leaders of social service agencies and so forth as well as the lay persons; these other categories of respondents simply had overwhelmed by their sheer numbers the findings from the lay people. The aggregated data told us that people value knowledge, expertise, and character in church leadership, but humility had only shown up way down the list of characteristics.

But the lay people, when their voices were allowed to be heard on their own, overwhelmingly, said that they wanted leaders who are humble. They said they wanted leaders who were not proud or puffed up. They wanted leaders who listened (as one lay person said) “as if I’ve got a brain too.”

… Maybe St. Benedict shows us a way to do what we need to do educationally and formatively to provide to the church and society the best leadership possible…

Let us construct a life together in seminary that… provides the formation of character and Christian faith even more than professional formation, and which prefers wisdom over the mere acquisition of information, so that those who graduate from our theological seminaries will be the kind of persons from whom and beside whom and among whom the people of God will want to learn, worship and live. 

 To read the entire article go to “A School for the Lord’s Service” ( Sep 05, 2017) written by Michael Jinkins, president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
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