I’m Only Sorry on Sundays–Lying Part 2

Parents will do almost anything for our kids, but apologizing to them doesn’t come easily to us. Who among us will readily admit when we’ve lied or messed up? Sinned? Our culture rarely models apologizing, confessing our sins, or extending forgiveness. We as parents need to do that for our kids.

And it pinches. That’s why I’m a big fan of prayers of confession during worship. Even silent ones. More often than during quarterly communion. It’s hard to pretend you’re always right and noble when you all confess your sins together each week. It does make us uncomfortable; we aren’t very good at it. Or if we only confess during church, our kids can see right through us. We need to keep short accounts the rest of the week, apologizing and asking for forgiveness when we wrong others, even our families. Especially our families.

Conversely, we may feel so overwhelmed by our sin we skip over God’s forgiveness. I have seen both in the Church. When I first visited a large church and experienced a corporate prayer of confession, I couldn’t believe how incredibly brief the silent confession time was. “What?” I thought, “I’m just getting started here on my sins. Do all these lovely people have it all together? Am I the only one who sins so much?” Nope. I later found out the service was broadcast on the radio and they weren’t allowed dead airtime. But what it unintentionally communicated to me was my inadequacy. I now give a long stretch of quiet time for confession. I do warn church goers that it’ll seem like a long time. And it does. Taking time to confess is good for our souls. It gives the Holy Spirit time to whisper, shout, prompt, or whatever the Holy One needs to do in our case.

At one church when I taught adult an Sunday school class on confession during Lent, a woman turned to her neighbor in all seriousness and said, “What’s all this talk about sin? I don’t sin, do you?”  He replied, “Nope, I just mess up sometimes.” This is the same church that changed the words to Amazing Grace from “that saved a wretch like me” to the more pleasant “that saved someone like me.” But it’s hard to confess and be forgiven by God if you never face your sinfulness.

In a recent Sunday school class, I had kids play confession pictionary and charades. They acted out the things which we often do which are wrong, which require confession and apology. They had fun with the charades, from fighting over a toy, to hitting a sibling, to lying, to not sharing the last apple. They got carried away and soon were acting out murdering people and burgling houses. We then got back on track and practiced a prayer of confession, repeating a spoken prayer and adding some silent time, then saying, “Jesus, please forgive me.” At the end, they looked each other in the eye and assured each other of their forgiveness, “Jesus loves you no matter what.”

Does teaching your kids confession feel tricky to you? The hard part is the confessing our “junk,” especially out loud before our spouse or kids. You can do this; let me help out. Only two lines to memorize: 1) “Jesus, please forgive me.” 2) “Jesus loves you no matter what.” Practicing these simple, yet powerful phrases between Sundays could go a long way toward healing our families. Lord, have mercy.

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Would I lie to you, honey? Part 1

With all due respect to Anne Lenox, I would and I do lie. And so do my kids, what feels like dozens of times each day. It’s one of our biggest family issues. Anyone who tells you differently is, well…

Yep, even pastor’s kids. (Mine are double PK’s, after all. Some have said the poor kids don’t stand a chance. But I believe they do!)

So, back to lying. Whether it’s the kids’ “I brushed my teeth,” or the parental “I never promised you that,” or anyone’s “I’ll do it in a minute” doozie, lying impacts how we relate to one another. Trust can be broken quick as a wink, but takes a longer time to restore it. So how do we cope with lying?

In my well-thumbed copy of Parenting with Love and Logic by Jim Fay Foster Cline, the section on lying is dog-eared, most worn of all. It recommends being empathetic first, “Gee, I can see how it’d be tempting to tell a whopper on this one,” then holding your boundary kindly, without anger.* It is amazing how toothbrushes for younger kids and car keys for teens can become powerful teaching tools about lying.

In our house, one with ADHD and impulse control issues admits that lies just pop off the tongue unexpectedly, with ridiculous claims and promises squirting out of the child’s mouth at any given minute. We use a “Whoops. I got that wrong” instant admission option for this one. It still takes courage to admit the lie, but the child has been learning it is way better to admit right away, than to let it snowball.

What about the parental lies we tell? “Sure I’m watching you (for the tenth time in a row).” My son once called me out, “No mommy, watch me with BOTH eyes.” Or the many variations on the parents’ guilt-induced promise, “I’ll make it up to you. I’ll buy you a pony.” My most frequent seems to be, “Yep, I’ll put your clothes in the dryer for you.” But then I don’t bother to set an alarm or take action to make my promise happen.

I’m certain our kids learn more from our keeping or not keeping our promises (and from our often-overheard, white lies) than they learn from our lectures. How do we handle it when caught? Can we swallow our pride? Keep a firm commitment to truth, even to our own discomfort? (Thanks to Steve Hayner, who taught us that.) Apologize when we get it wrong and work to make it right? Have some “fierce conversations” to face reality and reestablish truth and trust?

A few years ago, I went ballistic when a child was only coming clean on the smallest fraction, the tiniest percentage of what they had done. More and more crud kept coming to light. A counselor explained, “Any teenager is only gonna admit to what we catch them on, when we absolutely prove they’ve done it. Maybe that much. It’s self-preservation. Don’t expect anything else.” Wise parents beware kids’ words, “I swear it’s true!”

The Bible addresses this, “Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37, NIV). But as always, let’s use Scripture to train and rebuke with gentleness, not as a tool with which to hammer our kids (or ourselves).

One time I asked four-year-old CC why she said ‘that.’ She threw up her hands and replied, “The devil.” She was a Church Lady, long before she saw Dana Carvey in the SNL skit. And apparently a Presbycostal, for she stepped out onto the porch, raised her hands to heaven and prayed loudly, “O Lord, help me to obey my mommy so I can do what’s right.” She stepped back inside, brushing her hands off, “Well, that’s taken care of.”

Funny, but she made a good point. We can also pray with and for each other, asking the Holy Spirit to help us be truthful and to forgive us when we’ve screwed up. But only if we’re ready to keep it real. Kids have incredibly accurate lie detectors.

Can we afford to say “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” only when we are good and ready to mean it? Do feel free to wait. It may not have taken much time to construct that whopper, but it does take time to repair it. Sometimes we say those loving words first and only THEN do we discover we mean them. Our kids, our spouses, our own selves are in need of more grace, not less. Let’s try to lavish it when we can!

Rev. Steve Weed tells of a man who wrote a note and tucked it into the glovebox of his shiny, new sports car, with the insurance papers, just in case. The note read, “Honey, if you need to use these papers, remember I love you more than this car.” She discovered it the very moment she needed TLC (and a tow truck).

That’s grace. When we offer it unexpectedly, it always arrives with great welcome. It’s the most powerful tool we parents have, along with firm boundaries and toothbrushes. Grace.

*For more details on the Love and Logic approach including the classes which I facilitate, go to http://www.loveandlogic.com, and specifically for dealing with lying, go to http://www.loveandlogic.com/p-661-childhood-lying-stealing-and-cheating-mp3-download.aspx

Bursting with Jesus

I  preached this sermon “Bursting with Jesus” at Church of the Cross, Hoffman Estates on March 2, 2014, one month after their pastor Jule N. departed. I had coached her for the previous year in my role as “Proactive Transformation Coordinator” of the Presbytery of Chicago. Our associate presbyter Jan Edmiston asked me to preach to help prepare the way for their interim.  It was the first time I had received a standing ovation for a sermon–really the Holy Spirit got the ovation, inspiring the church for the next step in moving forward into God’s good future.

To see and hear a video of this sermon in its entirety go to: https://vimeo.com/87410448

We began by taking a look at a snapshot of  one day in Jesus’ life:  Matthew 9:14-17: “Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

Then we turned to current day snapshots:

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These are the visuals that were displayed on a screen to accompany this sermon. The woman is Rachel Veitch and that is her 1964 Mercury Comet. There are amazing similarities between the church and this fine, vintage automobile.
Here’s a snippet:

“. . . I ask you, ‘Have you ever felt bursting with good news?’ Joy to the world kinda news? Like an overfilled helium balloon ready to pop?

Jesus has that effect on people. He brought good news, created quite a buzz everywhere he went, from his birth, which drew shepherds and wisemen and on. Fast forward 30 years and he drew crowds everyday of his public ministry. And that was even before the biggest news hit. Imagine that first Easter morning–the angel’s announcement to Mary of Jesus’ resurrection. It filled Mary with joy and wonder; she ran to tell everyone she met. It brought hope and a new start to Jesus’ followers. And probably fear and confusion to those who had put him to death just three days earlier.

This wasn’t the first time Jesus had impacted people this way in his public ministry. Today’s passage comes from an ordinary day in the lives of Jesus and his followers. I believe it is a good lesson to explore together. We have a window of opportunity to look at our lives anew in light of God’s word and ask, “How will we live out this year, how can this church best ‘Reach People, Grow People, and Send people for Christ’ in the places God calls us to go? . . .

A word about parables. They are stories set in ordinary life told to teach a lesson. Not a lecture, but a new reality presented in words and images. Jesus’ stories build a house for us to inhabit and from whose windows we view the world in a new way. They are difficult to understand, but once we open the front door, they continue to work in us.[1]

In this story, Jesus talks about new versus old. A new patch sewed on an old garment won’t work. Neither will new wine poured and stored in old wineskins. Both the patch and garment will rip and the wine as it ferments will burst the skins and spill. In both cases the situation ends up worse than when we began; both the old and the new are destroyed.

On that day, Jesus’ listeners had no idea what Jesus meant. It is only after Jesus’ death and resurrection that we can hear this story with Easter ears and say, “Oh yes, Jesus was gonna burst out alright. The religion of the day couldn’t contain him. Jesus burst out of the Pharisee’s boundaries set to protect the Law. Even the grave, the grave couldn’t hold him—Jesus burst out of the tomb alive again and ready to bring new life to the whole world.

But somehow, we who have known Jesus for a lifetime, we who are regular church attendees lose sight of all this energy and newness, the radical celebration, the joy that that bursts forth when someone meets Jesus for the first time. The way Jesus calls us to change, to be transformed in our hearts and our lives and to burst out joyfully to transform our communities. Sometimes we let church become “business as usual. Ho-hum and ordinary.” We begin to focus on the work to be done, committees and cash flow. And when we become the status quo, the guardians of tradition, Jesus’ story threatens us also with new life ready to burst forth in Him. . . .

I encourage you to dialogue with each other in love and with respect, asking thoughtful questions, “What is God already doing in our midst? How can we agree with God’s work and get on God’s bus, as Jim Collins might say? Which vehicles will help us successfully road trip into God’s good future for Church of the Cross? What 1964 Mercury Comets might we need to trade-in or leave behind? Where are we in need of new parts or repair?

To follow the parable, in Jesus’ story, the new wine demands a new wineskin, something entirely new. What will it take for Church of the Cross to be open and intentional about becoming new– new wineskins, filled with Jesus’ joyous, new life to overflowing so we may share it with others? Is this church seeking Jesus enough to learn what God has next for Church of the Cross?

Meet the Savior of the world, meet the Risen Lord Jesus Christ this New Year. New things happen when you get to know him. New life for each of us. New life for Church of the Cross. Bursting with Jesus.”

[1] Kenneth Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, (Combined Edition) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983,) 280.

Enjoy!

Busted! Again. But for Praying?

DSCN5226I got into big trouble my first night volunteering. Again. I always do. I wanted the kids to engage, interact, so we moved out of the closet assigned to Kids Bible Club and started throwing paper airplanes in the upstairs hall. Prayer-planes! We’d talked through our days and listed all the things we could pray about:
• Not wanting to get out of bed
• Who to sit with on the bus or at lunch
• I have good friends to hang out with—hooray!
• That bully named Dash who is NOT incredible
• What to do when the girl next to me steals someone’s tots at lunch
• When that kid acts out and then blames me when he gets in trouble
• Should I tell on someone or shouldn’t I?
• Getting all my homework done when I have cheerleading AND church
• Sweating over that hard quiz
• Zipping through that easy quiz
• That I have good food to eat at dinner with my church friends
• That it was a thumbs-up day
• That it was a thumbs-down day

I was a guest teacher and I’d just met these third to sixth graders five minutes before. But they wanted to be listened to, to tell me all about their thumbs-up or thumbs-down days. No sign of the too-cool, preteen malaise I hear about on blogs. Sure they talked over one another, and were a little rude and insensitive:
“You worried about that quiz? It was easy. I’m gifted.”
“Well, you’re bragging.”
“Are you gonna give us candy soon, pastor?”
“ Can I go get a drink and take my friends with me?”

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But it all stopped when we wrote our prayers down, folded them into airplanes, and started sailing them through the air to God. Sure, the kids were competitive, but also cheering one another on. They were teaching each other the best folding techniques. They were chanting each other’s names. And learning about sending prayers up to God. Awesome, right?

Yep, you guessed it. That’s when I got into trouble. That church lady (you know the one) came out of the downstairs parlor and shouted up the stairwell, “Hush! We are trying to have class down here! We are trying to learn something!” She huffed, “There’s only six kids? It sounds like one hundred of you out here.”

Why do we think our kids should sit quietly in church? That they learn as well in a cold closet as in a gym space? That they should pencil in the blanks when they learn better by moving around?

I’m so glad it sounded like one hundred of us out in the hall. It turns out we grasped our Bible verses better through paper airplanes than with paper worksheets: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:4-6

Pleased to Meet You

Hi, I’m Tassie. You’re hDSC_0157ere to learn me about me. Well, me too. Where to begin?

I am a passionate follower of Jesus, a creative children’s minister and an experienced coach and trainer of leaders, as well as a proven equipper of parents and volunteers. My husband Ken and I are a clergy couple raising two great teenagers.

DSC_0006That’s why my personal mission statement is “Helping make Jesus real in the lives of families, beginning with our own.”

Why the jump from Chicago to Philly? Ken recently took a job with the PC(USA) Board of Pensions. I am currently looking for a call as a family minister at an energetic congregation in the Philly metro.

Why Family Launch? I believe in equipping parents and churches to help families rocket into God’s good future together.

After seven years of effective family ministry in a tall-steeple church, I retrained to focus on fundamentals of passing on faith through families and to serve as a church consultant. This winter, I am graduating with my DMin from Fuller Theological Seminary. My project was life-changing; I looked at passing on faith through families and the power of intergenerational connections. I teach parenting classes using the Love and Logic approach to “raising responsible kids that are fun to be around.” I can’t wait to share what I’m learning with parents and church leaders.

As a family minister I have created and launched an innovative family worship service, whi557451_480885628589278_1801061521_nch recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. As a coach and trainer I have challenged thousands of parents, church leaders, and pastors to rethink what changes are needed to welcome the next generation of children and families into faith and to reach out into their neighborhoods with God’s love.

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In my most recent role as Proactive Transformation Coordinator for the Presbytery of Chicago, I was a change agent and motivator within my organization, called upon to build teams and inspire them press forward toward goals in reaching others as Jesus’ hands and feet. I write for Children’s Ministry magazine (see Jan/Feb 2014 for my most recent article, Secret Ministry Shopper). Here’s a link to a previous article from the archives: http://childrensministry.com/articles/walking-on-wCMMagpubgraphic125x125ater-and-other-feats/

Our family builds houses together in Mexico with Amor Ministries during Mexico Family Camp. Their motto is “Families building homes, homes building families.” What a great way to grow and serve together! http://www.amor.org/trips/family

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l also lead retreats, parenting classes, and leadership and volunteer training events designed especially for your needs. Topics include:

Parent and Volunteer Trainings and Retreats:
Building Faith that Lasts
Worshiping with Eyes Wide Open
Faith Right Now: A Look at the Gospel of Mark
Breath Prayer for Busy Women
Prayer Doodling
Seeds to Grow Your Marriage
And All Shall Be Well
Creating Holiday Family Faith Traditions

Leader Trainings:
Leading for a Transformed Church
Twenty-first Century Who’s and How’s of Reaching Your Neighbors
Leading Congregations Through Change
What’s Next? Who is God Calling Us To Be? To Do?
Church Unique Visioning Process

Parenting Classes:
Parenting the Love and Logic Way
Early Childhood Parenting Made Fun

Please feel free to contact me for further info at revtassiegreen@gmail.com