I am very pleased to announced that my latest book Folly, Grace & Power: The Mysterious Act of Preaching was named book of the year by PreachingToday.com in the preacher’s soul category. Here is a link to find out more about this award.
My colleague Heather Moffitt, managing editor of the Moody Bible Institute publication Today in the Word, has written a moving article about what it is like to attend church with a difficult child. The daughter of a pastor, Heather says that although she didn’t expect her children to be angelic, she did expect them to learn how to comport themselves. “Reality doesn’t always conform to expectation,” Heather observes. When her son was 14 months old he began to exhibit “debilitating behavioral challenges,” just weeks after she joined a new church.
During the Easter Sunday service one year, he was part of the children’s program. He had one line: “J is for Jesus!” When it was his turn, he did not say his line. Instead, he screamed, “NO!” and hit me in the face. I was bleeding in front of the entire church. As soon as we left the platform, I dragged him to the car to go home. I screamed, “This is the worst thing you have ever done to me!” In truth, it wasn’t. We had weathered far more intense outbursts and tantrums. But this happened at church. My expectation of compliments for my well-behaved children was a fantasy; my illusion of parental control over his behavior was as broken as my upper lip.
In the article she goes on to describe the mixed advice she received on how to deal with these challenges. But more importantly, she tells how her imperfect church proved to be a manifestation of God’s grace in this challenging situation. The church is not perfect. Not yet. But even in its current rumpled state, it has the potential to be a powerful agent of God’s grace.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:10-11).
I encourage you to read the entire post on Duke Divinity school’s Faith & Leadership blog: http://faithandleadership.com/content/broken-behavior-going-church-challenging-child
I was thinking this morning about something I said more than a decade ago. It was a rash remark, uttered in the heat of the moment. The context, like that of so many of my other rash remarks, was a meeting.
I don’t know why this particular comment came to mind. It certainly wasn’t any worse than many other things I’ve said. I did not curse or take the Lord’s name in vain. My words, as I recall them, were merely surly and petulant. In fact, I can’t even recall the entire exchange in detail. Only a phrase and the shame I felt days later when I reflected on the moment.
It was the shame that caught me up short this morning. I was struck by how fresh it felt, blushing and red as if the words had only just passed through my lips today. It reminded me of a friend who told me how he still lays awake in bed at night and shivers when he thinks of a particular incident that occurred while in high school. It does not matter that the incident has been forgotten by everyone else. In that moment my friend lives through it all over again.
This is the way with shame. It is no respecter of persons or events. It is just as willing to associate itself with the insignificant as with the great. Just as eager to be the consort of the trivial as the heinous.
This makes shame both a friend and an enemy. There is nothing quite so healthy as shame. In its proper place it serves as a God given and necessary restraint against the worst of society’s behaviors. At the same time, there is nothing quite so unhealthy as shame. Its ancient memory compels us to agonize over that which should have been forgotten long ago. And the remedy for both is the same: “As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame'” (Rom. 10:11).