"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children." Deuteronomy 6:4-7 

Fitting In

  • By Zach Hoffman
  • 13 Jul, 2017

Making our homes into a holy shelter...

It might be one of the hardest moments that you will have to witness as a parent.

Of course, it had been coming for some time now. Your child was always different from the other kids. It almost sounds cliché to say it, but your child was always different . Maybe not special or gifted to any greater or lesser degree than any of the other children...

She had a sense of humor like all the rest…

He could demonstrate confidence when needed…

Sometimes she would be the one on the playground leading a pack of other kids…

Still, your child was always just… more vulnerable than the others.

Now his head is down, and he won’t lift it up to look at you. He is not speaking. Normally he finds it difficult to be silent. You’ve never seen that reaction before.

Now, you are holding her in your arms after a miserable day. Her tears soak your shirt, and you hold her tight.

You long for the early days when a mere hug and a good cry could set almost anything right. They tell you how no one would pick them for the team. No one would sit with them at lunch. Yesterday’s friends acted like complete strangers today to your child.

What do you do now? Assure them that their best friend who has been sick for the last week should be back in school soon? Tell them next year summer camp will be better? Give them some pointers to improve their social skills?

First, know there is hope. I used to do youth ministry, and now, I serve as the sole pastor of Good Shepherd. I have seen a lot of youth who have gone through heartbreaking periods of loneliness. Perhaps, they had friends that turned against them. Maybe it was a crisis point in a years’ long struggle to find their place. Often times, this clarifies what friendship is, and what they should seek in friends; as well as what friends are seeking in them. In the more painful moments, they simply need you not solutions.  

Remember who you are in these times. You are called to do the holy work of parenting.  


Christ will not abandon you in the crucial moment.

 As a parent, you are serving in the  most vital role in his kingdom. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Perhaps, we feel our own distance from scripture when we see the customary “nice Bible verse” placed in the “nice blog post." But take a moment, to grasp this promise. (Go ahead! The rest of this post will still be there!) You are his workmanship, and Christ is renewing you according to his design.

Those flaws or shortcomings that you feel in this moment might be real, but so is the Spirit who dwells in you.


Secondly, continue the work of making your home into a "little church." We live lives of worship as we serve and pray without ceasing, but the home is especially sacred. This is where the genuine tears can flow before God. It is where we can share burdens and pray for each other most earnestly. It is also where we can renew our confidence in our identity and our place.

This is more than just high-minded theology speaking-this is personal experience. My house was an anchor, because it was a place where I knew I could speak to God. It was the place where I did most of the work of sorting out my identity as a baptized child of God. It was a shelter against the cruelties of childhood. It was a place where I could dive into God’s Word. It was a little church, and it saved me more than once. 

Perhaps, the best thing you can do right away, is fold your hands and show them how one can bear their heart before God. Their pain is your pain. Their hurt is your hurt. Speak that hurt to Christ, and provide a reassuring example of prayer. Pray with the boldness of one who knows that God is even eager to hear your complaints.



There is not one child who does not fit in with Christ. He took on flesh for all. Died for all. Rose for all. Not in a generic way, but he himself knows the awkward stages of growing up. He knows the name of each of the Father’s children, because they have been a part of his creation since before the world began. He thought of each of their names as he died. He rose filled with joy, because he could not wait until your children had the opportunity to be baptized. He has come to bring hope into their lives and ours. 

He did it all for them, just as he did it all for you.

Most of all, we need to remind them of this: “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)

May our homes be shelters and living breathing reminders of the greater reality that is to come: One day we’ll all fit in, because Christ has made room for every one of us.

Impressed

By Zach Hoffman 13 Jul, 2017

It might be one of the hardest moments that you will have to witness as a parent.

Of course, it had been coming for some time now. Your child was always different from the other kids. It almost sounds cliché to say it, but your child was always different . Maybe not special or gifted to any greater or lesser degree than any of the other children...

She had a sense of humor like all the rest…

He could demonstrate confidence when needed…

Sometimes she would be the one on the playground leading a pack of other kids…

Still, your child was always just… more vulnerable than the others.

Now his head is down, and he won’t lift it up to look at you. He is not speaking. Normally he finds it difficult to be silent. You’ve never seen that reaction before.

Now, you are holding her in your arms after a miserable day. Her tears soak your shirt, and you hold her tight.

You long for the early days when a mere hug and a good cry could set almost anything right. They tell you how no one would pick them for the team. No one would sit with them at lunch. Yesterday’s friends acted like complete strangers today to your child.

What do you do now? Assure them that their best friend who has been sick for the last week should be back in school soon? Tell them next year summer camp will be better? Give them some pointers to improve their social skills?

First, know there is hope. I used to do youth ministry, and now, I serve as the sole pastor of Good Shepherd. I have seen a lot of youth who have gone through heartbreaking periods of loneliness. Perhaps, they had friends that turned against them. Maybe it was a crisis point in a years’ long struggle to find their place. Often times, this clarifies what friendship is, and what they should seek in friends; as well as what friends are seeking in them. In the more painful moments, they simply need you not solutions.  

Remember who you are in these times. You are called to do the holy work of parenting.  


By Zach Hoffman 25 May, 2017

Young Biff: What's wrong, McFly? Chicken?
Marty McFly: What did you just call me?
Young Biff: Chicken!
Marty McFly: Nobody! Calls me... chicken.

Back to the Future Part II

 

If anyone deserved a fat helping of justice it was Biff Tannen. The iconic bully of the Back to the Future movies always knew how to push Marty McFly. In fact, he successfully tormented Marty in two separate time periods! Nobody wept for Biff any time (any time period ?) he got what he had coming to him… and yet, what would life be without Biff? What would Back to the Future be like without this menace?

He is someone we love to hate. Maybe you have imagined what you would do if you were in Marty’s shoes. A swift kick? A cutting insult? An elaborate and humiliating act of vengeance?  

By Zach Hoffman 08 May, 2017

The alarm goes off like it does every Sunday morning. The bed calls for you to fall back into it and slumber. However, years of habit and routine have taught you to ignore its call. It seems like a normal Sunday, but this time it’s different.  

There is something else holding you back from getting out of bed. You remember, again , that you are not going to the place you normally go. You are going to try that other church that your friends have invited you too. They heard your story and invited you out of sympathy. They said you would be welcomed there. Maybe you will be, but it feels weird- like a small betrayal.  Still, you’re a believer, and believers have to worship…somewhere.

You did not decide randomly to attend a new church. You were not thinking about this a week ago. Seven days earlier, you walked into the congregation you have always belonged too. It was the one that became your home. Then you hit your breaking point. Someone said something deeply hurtful. They blamed you and judged you. Made you feel worthless. Your children were mistreated. You were cast out. Years of being treated poorly and enduring insults have finally come to a head. You are going to a new church, because you cannot go back home.

“Lord, I can’t go back there. What am I supposed to do?”

If you go back then everywhere you turn you will see the person or persons who hurt you. The anger and rage, and then the tears will come bubbling to the surface. You don’t want a million questions about what happened last week. You are tired of thinking about it anymore, and talking about it is not going to help. People will try their best to make it ok. They will try to understand. Or are they just afraid the numbers will take a hit if you go? No. Going back is impossible. The hurt is too much right now. It will suffocate your worship.  

I’m writing this as a pastor. You might expect an appeal to come back to your old congregation just like you always have. Sadly, that’s not what I’m going to do. It would be unrealistic.

Instead, let me tell you that I know. I may have never felt your particular pain, but I know how mine feels and so does every other pastor. Every time we turn around on Sunday morning we see the faces that have hurt us. The ones who betrayed us. Those who gossip behind our backs, but they think we do not know. The person who we overheard condemning our parenting skills and the one who might only be coming to watch us go down in flames.

I remember the first morning as a pastor that I did not want to go back to church. I never thought I would feel that way, but I could not deny it went it happened. I was hurt. My family was hurting. I barely kept it together that entire Sunday morning. My heart pounded inside my chest for three straight hours, and I was the first one out the door after the last service.

I too have prayed: “Lord, I can’t go back there. What am I supposed to do?”

Do not go back to church the same way you always have. Go back wounded.

There was one who was cut down, doubted, cast aside, and betrayed. The deepest hurt came from those who called him Lord. They abandoned him and ran away. He was nailed to a tree and left for dead. On the cross, Jesus received wounds that he would carry for all eternity, because the church is even capable of scarring the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

Jesus knew the full meaning of these words: “You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.” Psalm 88:17

He was not raised from the dead to create a new fellowship for himself. He went back to the very disciples who betrayed and abandoned him and revealed his wounds saying: “Peace be with you!”

Given the choice between breaking fellowship or seeking revenge Jesus chose to reveal his wounds and speak peace.

Parents, I beg you not for my sake or for the sake of numbers, but for the sake of Christ: Come back wounded. Whether it is your hurt or your child’s they will see the power of the resurrection.  Yes, they will see your weakness as you wrestle with the hurt. They will also see the faith that bears witness that Jesus is alive. He rose though he was wounded. He forgave though he was murdered. How will he not renew and heal the parts of his body of believers that have broken apart?

You cannot go to church the same way you went before, but you can go. You can go wounded and in hope that there is no wound, no matter how deep, that Christ cannot speak peace over.

By Zach Hoffman 24 Apr, 2017

“Jesus said to her, do not cling to me, for you have to go to work tomorrow.”

Mary immediately let go of Jesus, and the joy of Easter left her. Her mind became filled with plans for dinner later that day. Getting the kids in bed, because they had school in the morning. She wondered: Should I make their lunches tonight, or should I make them in the morning?

“Go and tell my disciples to continue their routines. I have risen. So it’s cool now.”

_______________________

Do you ever have a holiday come and go when you never really had a chance to get excited for it? All of a sudden, everything is “back to normal” when you feel like you never really left normal.

It’s hard for me to get in the mood for Christmas or Easter because of all the planning that goes into it. I know it might be that way for you as well. For me there are all the pastoral duties that come with these high feast days in the church year, but the bulk of the work is getting the list done on the family side. By the time the big holidays come and go, I am... actually, my wife is worn out.

Maybe we ought to make a decision for ourselves and our families. Maybe we can decide to not let stress, busyness, or holiday numbness continue to have the victory. After all, the victory does not come and go based on how we feel. It is ours forever because of what God has done for us in Christ. Remember that popular verse from Romans 8?   “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Truth is not always felt, but it is always real.

Take a Moment

Take a moment for a little bit of discipleship today. You are in the middle of your week. So it means that your children are in the middle of theirs. They won’t see you coming. Tell them Christ has risen, and stare at them until they say: “He has risen indeed! Alleluia” Ask them what they thought about Easter, and what they will remember most. Start something new like planting a flower or taking routine walks with your kids. Point out every new thing you see and share how these are all reminders of the new life we have in Christ and the new heavens and the new earth he has in store for us.

Christ has risen! (Type the appropriate Lutheran response in the comments below.)

By Zach Hoffman 06 Apr, 2017

4 Hear, O Israel: The   Lord   our God, the   Lord   is one.   5 Love   the   Lord   your God with all your heart   and with all your soul and with all your strength.   6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.   7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.   9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  

-Deuteronomy 6:4-9

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