Killing Sunday School - Birthing Cross+Gen

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Just went to the printer - Volume 3 is written by educational/worship pioneers from a dozen churches who've spent the last two years trying to figure out Cross+Gen and are willing to share their strategies, mistakes, and joys of life with the adjacent possible of the wisdom of the elder and the wonder of the child in covenant relationships every week at church and in prayer every night in every home. Thanks to all who dared and shared. see you in Estes Park!

Traces Across Faces

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Fun to open Facebook this morning to see our friend Cecilia Javed in Pakistan marking a child with the cross of Christ. We've been pushing "traces across faces" for some time now in the Cross+Gen world and it's pretty dang powerful. Wonderful. Fun-fun-funderful to see it popping up more and more. Hands that are raised in blessing will rarely be raised in anger.

 

Mark someone with the cross of Christ today and see if it doesn't spread.

Three Favorites from Tuesdays

 

Thanks Dad, for everything you were and are.

In "Tuesdays with Morrie", Mitch Albom wrote three things that helped me with my dad's death. 

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” 

“All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time.” 

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that's all. You can't see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” 
― Mitch Albom

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Teen Girls and Anxiety Without Phone

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Interesting Pew Research out this week that might be worth a teen/parent discussion this fall. Half-way down the article is a chart detailing the emotional impact of NOT having their cell phone, and the stat that 49% of girls and 35% of boys say they feel anxiety without it. A third of girls and a fifth of boys also feel lonely when they don't have their phone. Worth a read. http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/08/22/how-teens-and-parents-navigate-screen-time-and-device-distractions/

Raising A Teen Who Talks Every Night?

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Imagine

No... Act

He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.

MA L A C H I 4 : 6

Imagine raising a daughter who wouldn’t think of going to bed without talking to you about her highs and lows every night, even though she’s 16.

Imagine raising a son who won’t turn out the lights without asking you about your day, praying for your highs and lows, and blessing you.

Imagine growing up in a home where everyone feels loved, valued and heard every night; a family that seeks God’s wisdom, will and Word at the center of their lives; an intimate community where every night is an experience of caring, sharing, comfort and peace. Does this sound like an impossible dream?

It isn’t.

Does it sound like an improbable dream?

Maybe.

One thing is for sure: This dream is not going to magically materialize without intention, commitment and a workable plan on your part to make it happen. Having a close and caring family is a beautiful dream, but a dream without a plan isn’t worth a nickel. However, a dream with a workable plan may be worth a million bucks.

Life is Short, Art is Long

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One of my favorite sayings by China's #1 Christian artist and my dear friend Dr. He Qi, is "Life is short, art is long"

I've used it in a key song in the screenplay for "Baby Silkworm and the Alien Invasion". Shortly before the harvest of earth begins, old Master Han gathers 12 disciples and teaches them the best of the ancient Chinese stories, songs and fables. They are to go to the north, south, east and west and remain in hiding until the danger has passed, then return and teach their ancient identity to the children. Maybe the ancient culture - and their identity - can be saved. Here's the  song.

GREAT MASTER HAN
Books will be burned
And the tall towers rust
Even your monuments turn into dust
In spite of your glory
Regardless your fame
In one hundred years
No one will remember
your name

Life is short
Art is long
Hide all your treasures
In stories and song
Sing it to children
Again and again
And after you’re gone
They’ll live on, they’ll live on
Amen

If there is one lesson I’ve learned, I have learned
Everything owned can be lost, 
can be burned
Possessions posses you
And cause you much pain
Even your statues
Dissolve in the rain

Art is long
Life is short
Paint all your stories
And hide them in art
Tell them to children
Again and again
And after you’re gone
They’ll live on, they’ll live on
Amen

If you have a message
you want to live on
Send it to the future
In art and in song
Sing it loud, sing it often
Paint it soft, paint it brave
Long after you’re dead
Part of you will walk
from your own grave

Life is short
Art is long
Hide all your treasures
In stories and song
Sing them to children
Again and again
And after you’re gone
You’ll live on, you’ll live on
You’ll live on
Amen

Three Reflections

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Three

Reflections

We've invested the last month on the psychology, sociology and neurology of sharing highs and lows. Let's wrap up with three reflections:

Reflection 1

Think of your highest high and lowest low in the last five years.

• Where was God in the high?

• Where was God in the low?

• What wisdom have you gained from these two experiences?

Reflection 2

Put on your psychologist’s hat for a moment. What happens to a person when he or she:

• Shares a significant high with a trusted friend?

• Shares a significant low with a trusted friend?

• Falls asleep every night of his or her life knowing that he or she is loved, heard and valued?

Reflection 3

Put on your sociologist’s hat for a moment. What happens to a family when they:

• Reflect on the significant highs of the day every night?

• Reflect on the significant lows of the day every night?

• Share highs and lows, caring conversations, faith talk and reflection at the end of the day (as opposed to mornings, after school, in the car or around the dinner table)?

FAITH5 for Absent Parents

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What if you frequently have to go out of town on business? What if you are sitting on a military base half a world away? What if you are sitting in a jail or prison cell? All the more reason to connect with your kids! Your kids need you now more than ever in order to feel loved, secure and safe.

Just because you're gone doesn't mean you have to be absent.

Do everything in your power to check in regularly with your kids, ask about their highs and lows, share your own concerns, pray for them, ask for their prayers, and offer your blessing. Don’t let physical distance create emotional distance. Leverage the technology available to Skype or FaceTime or phone them. So much of communication happens without words. The smile, the eyes, the face muscles, the visual clues say more than mere words ever could. 

Let your loved ones know that even though you are away, you care too much about them to let a single day go by without building a memory they will treasure and take with them the rest of their lives. They will remember that their daddy or mommy always had time for them. You can’t buy that kind of message for a child. It will mean more to him or her than you will ever know.

Two Rules and Three Tools for Nightly Home Huddles (Photographs and Emotographs)

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Two Rules
We only had two rules for sharing highs and lows when our children were young. First, no interruptions. When someone was sharing, no one else was allowed to speak, except to ask clarifying questions. Second, no judgment. The first time you judge your children’s highs or lows may be the last time they risk being honest with you about what is really going on in their lives.

Three Tools
With the hindsight of a nostalgic empty-nester and the insight of a lot more reading in neurology since my children were babies, I now know of three tools I wish I had used in the Melheim home while they were young. These are:

1. A timer: Brevity is the way to go for highs and lows, so set a time limit for the amount of sharing. Save the longer conversation for the amount of sharing. Save the longer conversation for Step 3: Talk.

2. Journaling: Writing before speaking is brilliant neurology. It connects thought to muscles, motions to emotions, and eyes to fingers. It begins the process of moving a person’s short-term memory from scratch pad (hippocampus) to hard drive (neo cortex). Writing connects the brain to the body to the environment, thus engaging the whole mind. It wires and fires and connects the new to what you already knew, setting the pieces in place for insight, problem-solving and innovation. If you want to grow reflective children into wise and thankful adults, start journaling.

3. Photographs and “emotographs”: As long as you are journaling words, why not consider adding a journal of images? Take at least one photo every day and add it to the mix.

Mental and emotional snapshots recorded in the form of simple sentences about your highs, lows and prayers serve as great mementos. Add a photo each day along with your writing and your journal will become the kind of scrapbook I call an emotograph—a rich, simple, memory- jogging tool that ensures that the day and its lessons will never be forgotten.

The 20-percent Marriage Insurance Policy

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Sharing highs and lows isn’t healthy just for kids—journaling highs and lows followed by sharing thoughts out loud is also great for marriages. According to Richard Wiseman in 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, “Partners who spend a few moments each week committing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship to paper boost their chances that they will stick together by more than 20 percent. Such ‘expressive writing’ results in partners using more positive language when they speak to each other, leading to a healthier and happier relationship.”

Setting aside 5 to 15 minutes each night for these communication practices might not merely hold a family together; it might also teach children—and adults—how to hold a marriage together.

Copy of Life Moves Pretty Fast (Take Time Tonight)

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Here's the link to "Life Moves Pretty Fast." Show it to parents, then invite them to start a nightly check in with FAITH5 (share, read, talk, pray, bless).

Home Huddle: How to Start

If all you had time for each night was five minutes of sharing highs and lows, you would be miles ahead of most families—psychologically, sociologically, neurologically and theologically. But this is just the start of the art. In the chapters that follow, we’ll get to the good stuff. In the meantime, let’s look at how this first step of FAITH5 might look in your nightly routine.

Calling the Huddle
Whoever is going to bed first in your home is empowered to call the nightly home huddle. This could be, “Highs and lows!” or “Huddle up!” or “FAITH5 in five minutes!” After a little exercise to get oxygen, glucose and BDNF coursing through your children’s veins, invite each person to look back on the day. What was one high (a good thing) that happened during the last 24 hours? What was one low (one thing they didn’t consider so great)?

Go around the room. Take turns. Ask everyone to be on watch throughout the day for the highest high and the lowest low. Consider recording your highs and lows in a journal for later reflection. Think of this as a little gift to your family and yourself. Be honest. Be real. Don’t interrupt. Expect everyone to contribute.

Rotating Rooms

Some people have a dedicated space where the sharing of highs and lows always takes place. Others allow the first person going to bed to convene the meeting and call the space. “My room! Five minutes!”

When our children were young, our pillow fight always ended on our waterbed. We followed with highs and lows on the waves. When they hit grade school, the home huddle rotated between Kathryn’s and Joseph’s rooms. For some magical unseen reason, it shifted back to Mom and Dad’s bedroom when they hit high school. Most nights found them lying comfortably on our bed—often with Kathryn Elizabeth’s feet sticking in my face for a foot rub. Even on nights when we were angry with one another and not all that elated to be related, the act of returning to that ritual and comforting space was often all it took to bring us back “home” in our home.

TOMORROW: Two Rules and Three Tools for Highs and Lows

Neurologically, less is more

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According to brain and spirituality researchers Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman in Words Can Change Your Brain, the listener’s brain can only recall about 10 seconds of content. Beyond that, nothing is going to register. As Newberg and Waldman write:

"If you talk for several minutes, the other person’s brain will only recall a fraction of what you’ve said, and it might not be the part you want to convey. The solution? Brevity followed by intense listening to make sure the other person has grasped the key points of what you said. If they have, great! You can say another sentence. If not, why move on? If the other person hasn’t understood you, what good will it do?"

Here’s the other good news if you have a child or teen (or spouse) who doesn't talk much: The person who shares highs and lows in a couple sentences in 10 to 20 seconds may not only be more efficient in communicating - but they may be significantly more effective in getting messages across! Any one-way communication beyond a half-minute increases the likelihood that the message a person is trying to get across will not be registered and remembered by anyone.

You can keep pouring water in a full glass all you want, but it’s only going to hold so much. Everything else will just be a waste of water. Likewise, after 10 seconds, you can keep talking all you want, but if there is no give and take—no true conversation—everything else is just a waste of time, energy and breath.

Don't worry if highs and lows are done in a couple sentences or syllables. Worry if they aren't done at all.

Growing a Listening Brain

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We mentioned yesterday that little boys, at birth, have 11% less brain tissue dedicated to speaking and listening than little girls. That's the bad news. Here's the good news. 

The brain, like any muscle, grows in the areas in which it is exercised most. If you want to grow a child into an adult who will express thoughts and feelings to you, a future spouse and future kids, you need to start today. Set the stage for open and caring communication. Model it every night. Try your best to practice compassionate communication.

For those of you with sons who don't like to talk, remember this: The more you talk together now, the more you will enlarge your child's capacity to talk later. Just because you aren’t hearing major significant lows coming out of your child's mouth every night doesn’t mean their brains aren't growing. The very act of listening will help his brain grow more capacity in the linguistic and phonics areas. Listening will also expand his capacity for emotional depth and care. And active listening - while turning the lows into intercessory prayer in FAITH5 - will also enlarge the areas of the brain that create compassion, empathy and understanding.

 

Differences Between Boys and Girls When Sharing Highs and Lows

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According to Dr. Louann Brizendine in The Female Brain, little girls are born with 11 percent more brain tissue that is dedicated to speaking and listening than little boys. Little boys are born with two and a half times more brain tissue dedicated to sex drive, plus larger areas of the brain are connected to action and aggression. That’s one more reason for a pillow fight before you try to talk! If you don’t turn part of your learning process into action up front, your boys will turn it into aggression later on. Take your pick.

The Bad News
According to Dr. Brizendine, the average female speaks approximately 20,000 words each day. In a 16-hour waking day, that equals about 10 minutes per hour. The average male speaks about three and a half minutes per hour, or just 7,000 words in a day. This news is neither good nor bad; it’s just the way it is. Expect your son to share—just don’t expect him to share as much.

Most nights in the Melheim home, Kathryn Elizabeth would share her highs and lows for 5-10  minutes once we got her started. Joseph Martin would generally “get it over with” in three seconds using three or four syllables: “school sucks” and “almost Friday.” According to the Woman’s Passion website most girls actually enjoy talking more than most boys. It’s a matter of chemistry.  The simple speech act causes emission of hormones in a woman’s brain, giving her the same sensations which a drug addict feels after he receives a long-awaited dose.

The female brain flushes pleasure drugs into the system during a good conversation. Not so with the male brain. Too much talking—if forced—has just the opposite effect on the male brain. Rather than producing pleasure hormones, forcing a lot of talk out of a boy who isn’t in the mood actually produces stress hormones.

Differences between male and female brains are already formed in a mother’s womb, when testosterone kicks in and begins affecting formation of the developing male brain. As a result of this influence, zones controlling speech, emotions and memory in a man’s brain decrease. Thus, boys, and later men, speak less than women and often try to hide their emotions because they are not as in touch with them, and have a harder time trying to verbalize what they do not understand.

They don't want to look or sound stupid. Who does?

Tomorrow - the Good News when it comes to Highs and Lows for Belles and Beaus, and a look at the book "The Male Brain" by Dr. Brizendine.

Bigger than Our Biggest Problems

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God is bigger

than the Boogie Man

Yes, God is Bigger Than The Boogie Man
 

Admitting lows before God and each other will show your family that God is bigger than their biggest complaints, bigger than their biggest problems, and bigger than their biggest questions. It will show your children that it is okay to verbalize what is on their hearts. It teaches them to hang on and wrestle with God and God’s people when answers aren’t apparent and pain is unrelenting.

Sharing lows in the context of your primary faith community— your family—will give your child experience in looking for and leaning toward God and God’s people, especially in the midst of problems. It teaches them how to get real, to deal and to heal. It also calls Christ into the center of the problem, discussion and solution.

As Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20).

A Theology of Sharing Lows

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The Bible calls us again and again to place our problems before one another and God for mutual care and support during hard times. The following is a week’s worth of nightly compassion Scriptures. As you read and consider this list, what jumps out?

  • Weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:5).
  • Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).
  • And be kind to one another, tenderhearted (Eph. 4:32).
  • Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4).
  • Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing (1 Thess. 5:11).
  • Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28).
  • Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7).

Sharing lows teaches your children that they are part of life. Sharing these lows before God and a trusted Christian family or a “family of friends” shows your children that they are never alone. Admitting disappointment, weakness, fear and anger out loud is what healthy people do. It reinforces the Church at its most elemental level.

Why not start tonight?