|As a chaplain for the 147th Reconnaissance Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, these are my monthly squadron presentations.
School Shootings and Me (3/11/2018)
What can I do about the school shootings?
I feel so powerless. Since 2000, there have been in excess of 200 shootings. Since January 1, 12 schools have been afflicted with this plague. Each time one happens I shake my head and wonder what am I supposed to do?
We know the arguments and issues. Gun control. Arm the teachers. Metal detectors. More awareness. Violence in entertainment and gaming. Mental health issues.
We know the perpetrators. Young male. Usually white. Socially isolated. Access to guns. Possible drug abuse.
But, there is one alarming thread that most school shooters have in common that is not being discussed.
Almost 100% did not have a father actively involved in their life. No dad. Broken home; broken boy.
The Parkland Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz, grew up without a biological father and his adoptive father died when he was still young.
Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, came from a broken home and his dad had not talked to him in two years.
Elliot Rodgers, University of California at Santa Barbara, said the most devastating event of his life was the divorce of his parents.
This reality extends even to the mass shooters. Steven Paddock, Las Vegas, and Dylaan Roof, Charleston, were fatherless.
We see the direct connection between juvenile delinquency and fatherlessness but for some reason we have not made the connection yet to these young men.
What can I do?
The gun control debate is too big for me and I do not know how to address the pervasiveness of violence in our culture, but I can do one thing. As a dad, I can be involved my children’s lives. My children need more than my money. They need my direction, emotional support, encouragement, example, correction and ongoing affirmation. They don’t need me to be a buddy or friend but they need me to be dad.
Now, I can do that and so can most dads.
Scott McKay is the pastor of Willow Drive Baptist Church in Lake Jackson and a chaplain with the Texas Air National Guard. He and his wife, Stephanie, have five children and two grandchildren.
Purple Press – Influence (2/1/2018)
Parenting young adults is far harder than parenting teenagers and children. You can tell a child what to do and pressure a teenager, but with young adult children you are limited to influence.
The kind of influence I have on my four young adult children is based on how I view them. Stephen Covey teaches a leadership principle that states: Begin with the end in mind.
The principle applies to projects, personal goals and I also believe to the people around us.
Here is how I am applying this principle to one of my 20-something children. His name is Aaron. He lives in LA and he is trying to make it in the film industry.
A few days before Christmas, he called us about a major predicament. It was not a moral issue and his life was not in danger, but his car was. Since Aaron moved to LA in 2015, we have received innumerable phone calls of dilemmas, troubles and hardships.
I will spare the details, but eventually the situation resolved itself and a few days afterward we talked.
Aaron said, “Dad, I just wish you would yell at me and tell me how bad a person I am.” In so many words, I said, “Aaron, I see you as a success and not a screw up.”
Begin with the end in mind.
Yes, I’ve had the hard conversations, drawn the clear boundaries, laid out the expectations and demonstrated tough love with Aaron, but it all comes from the place that I see him as a future success not an eternal screw up.
I think once you see others through their potential, you will more likely be drawn from complaining and criticizing to coaching and encouraging.
Purple Press – Loss (2/1/2018)
We all lose stuff. A few losses are good – weight, awful boyfriend/girlfriend – but most are bad. How does it feel losing your car keys?
Everybody goes through loss:
Whenever you lose something significant, you go through the same experiences as when you lose your keys. The big difference is that you have to move ahead with getting new keys, but most loss cannot be pushed through with grit. You are like a jellyfish. You float with the current around you; you cannot force your way through it.
Eventually, if you handle the loss in a healthy way, you will make the adjustments to your new normal. Depending on the loss, the adjustment may take weeks or years, so during this time, be aware and show grace to yourself as well as others who are experiencing loss.
Listening Well – January 2017 (2/23/2017)
With all the divisive and negative talk within our nation, it is critical that we learn how to listen well. People feel most loved when they are deeply listened to by another. Here are some simple listening skills that you can do today to strengthen your relationships:
Clarify Expectations (12/15/2016)
Early in my marriage I did not call Stephanie about coming home late from work. She assumed the worse and had a search party looking for me. She expected me to call and I did not. You can eliminate 25-50% of your relationship problems by learning how to clarify expectations.
Daily Temperature Reading (11/5/2016)
At the last Commander’s Call I handed out a relationship tool called “Daily Temperature Reading.” The essence of the tool is to create healthier relationships through honest and open dialogue.
One element of the DTR is “Complaints and Recommendations.” The purpose of complaints and recommendations is to help each person be aware of and take responsibility for the small irritations and annoyances that arise every day and share them maturely.
When complaints are unspoken, they unconsciously leak out through a poor attitude or passive-aggressive behavior. When spoken poorly, they immediately drive a wedge in the relationship. This is not about arguing about or solving concerns, but how to hear each other, learn to negotiate and perhaps agree to disagree.
Here is how it works: The person with the complaint takes responsibility for coming up with a possible solution. As my wife said to me this weekend, “I noticed you let the dog roam around the house today when you left. I would prefer you keep her in the utility room unless you are home.” This is much better than, “Why did you let the dog out of the utility room?!”
This is a hard skill to master because I am rewiring my brain to handle complaints differently. But, I can say that after 31 years of marriage that I am no longer afraid of saying the wrong thing and escalating an issue into an argument and I am not as defensive when given a complaint.
By using this skill regularly and keeping our complaints current, our conversations are much better and our marriage is healthier. For a fuller description of the DTR, go to http://www.pairs.com/dtr.php.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION (9/21/2016)
“Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy.” -Aristotle
HOW TO TAKE A TIME-OUT
Some conflicts become heated as levels of anger and frustration rise. Rather than speaking assertively, partners begin to accuse, criticize, or yell. Rather than listening actively, partners interrupt, belittle, and ignore. Physiologically, the “fight or flight” response is triggered as each person goes into a protection mode with little or no regard for their partner. In this state of escalation, it is not uncommon to say or do things we later regret. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to have a productive conversation leading to a mutually agreed upon resolution. This is when a “time-out” can be beneficial. A time-out provides couples with an opportunity to cool down, identify their feelings and needs, and begin to think productively again about how to approach the issues they face.
Thought of the Day: “I’m puzzled…?” (8/3/2016)
Whenever someone does not respond to your email, text or call, where does your mind take you? Do you get angry, disheartened, concerned or upset?
We know that normally our brain fills in uncertainty with negative thoughts. We assume the worst and when the person does respond, we have a little attitude or caution. This little phrase, “I’m puzzled…?” can keep your brain from going to those places.
One of my sons is a trumpet player and before he came home from college this summer, he contacted our local orchestra leader about volunteering to play for the community production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The leader was very appreciative and told Nathaniel that he would get back with him.
Four weeks rocked along and he had not contacted him, so Nathaniel thought the worst. “I can’t believe he didn’t call me back and at least tell me that he didn’t need me!” I asked Nathaniel, “Why don’t you call him” You never know what might have happened.” Reluctantly, Nathaniel called only to leave a voicemail. The next day, the orchestra leader’s wife calls and says, “I am so sorry my husband did not get back with you. He’s been extremely sick for the last month and, in fact, his tongue is paralyzed and he can’t talk with anyone, but he does want you to play in the orchestra.”
So how do you think my son felt? Like a jerk.
“I’m puzzled…?” can keep your brain from assuming the worst and be a gentle reminder to the person that you need a response from them. Use it as a tool to maintain healthy communication in your relationships.
The Wake Behind You, June 2016 (6/16/2016)
When a boat moves through the water it leaves a wake behind it. Wakes can be fun to a wakeboarder, but they can be dangerous to a kayaker.
Likewise, as we pass through life we leave a wake. The wake can either be enjoyed by others or it can be disastrous.
There are two sides to our wakes. There is the professional side. This is the impact we leave in our work environment. Would our co-workers say that we have a positive attitude, strong work ethic and are dependable or would they say we are undependable, lack motivation and do not strive for excellence?
The other side of the wake is our personal side. This is the impact we leave on those closest to us. Are people’s lives better because of our commitment and love or are their lives a wreck because of our selfishness and unforgiveness?
When people experience your wake, are they saying “Oh boy!: or “Oh no!”?
Characteristics of A Giant Killer – May ‘16 (5/19/2016)
Last drill I spoke about the Bible story of David and Goliath and what giants reveal about us. All of us have giants, like Goliath, that we need to face and all of us can be like David and defeat them.
Everyone faces giants and everyone can be a giant killer so take courage and take on your giants.
The Tithe 3.11.18 (3/13/2018)
Living From Heaven’s Culture. February 25, 2018 (3/11/2018)
Christ Is All You Need, January 29, 2018 (2/1/2018)
Community Transformation (12-18-2016) (12/22/2016)
Advancing Into Child Likeness (12-11-2016) (12/14/2016)
|Thoughts from both my monthly newsletter column and personal journal.
From My Heart, December 2017 (1/18/2018)
I want to address a chronic problem with American Christianity that really manifests itself around the holidays.
Have you ever seen a house that a do-it-yourselfer decided to build? This isn’t your ordinary handyman who followed a set of plans and sub-contracted some of the work. No. This is the guy who decided he could do it with no plans and a good eyeball.
He has things like: Four electrical outlets running along a master bedroom wall and none on the other walls; an antebellum plantation front with a Spanish tile roof; a half poured patio with exposed rebar.
After seven years of interrupted activity, he ends up in a freakish house which has an odd assortment of both conventional and unconventional amenities.
Too many American Christians have the same pattern in following Christ. They start off in one direction with the Lord…get distracted…move into something else…grow cold… get shaken back into reality…return to the Lord…get distracted…move into something else…and on and on it goes.
Freedom, money and mobility are wonderful drugs. They promise fun, rest and family time, but they leave us exhausted, broke and distracted. We turn into disciples who “intend to.”
Jesus said: If anyone wants to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. (Luke 14.26-28)
If you want to be His disciple, you can’t have the, “gone every night of the week, eat on the run, fill the calendar with activity, toy with sin, spend to the limit, stay on top of social media, place your kid’s first, always find time for yourself, plus, follow Jesus lifestyle.” It ain’t happenin’!
Jesus’ word to the American Christian is, “You are worried and distracted by so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Only a few find it and it will not be taken from them.” (Luke 10.41-42)
Count the cost,
From My Heart, November 2017 (1/18/2018)
How do you respond to people who have lost so much during the flood?
While running the evacuation shelter, two of our members spent time just listening to the story of a woman who lost everything. Afterwards, they prayed for her. Within a few minutes of the conversation, she changed. Her countenance, attitude and perspective shifted from one of despair to hope. When she left our shelter the next day, she was not the same person who arrived 24 hours earlier.
What did she need? Emotional validation.
This lady’s life was reshaped by something beyond her control. Her past, present and future were affected by the muddy waters of destruction. She was disoriented, anxious and reeling from uncertainty. She needed to be heard.
Emotional validation is a powerful ministry response. Letting people vent and then validating their feelings goes a long way in helping a person. We have all had the experience of feeling like another person really “got us” when were sad or mad. They didn’t rush us or give us advice or diminish our situation by comparison. We were heard and it was satisfying. Then, we were able to let go of some of the negative feelings we had.
So how do we offer authentic emotional validation? Here’s some advice from an article I read:
The Bible says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak” and the old saying, “There is a reason God gave you two ears and only one mouth” are both appropriate as it pertains to emotional validation.
From My Heart, July 2017 (7/16/2017)
“From Friendly to Family” is our theme for the year. Many guests have commented that Willow is an incredibly welcoming church, which is a wonderful attribute. People have also said that they want to develop deeper relationships within the church, but they have found it a challenge.
From My Heart, June 2017 (7/16/2017)
On June 4 we will celebrate Pentecost. After his resurrection and 10 days prior to Pentecost, Jesus told his disciples they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1.4). He defined the baptism of the Holy Spirit by saying, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1.8).
From My Heart, May 2017 (7/16/2017)
It has been five years this month that I swore in to the United States military. Thank you for your support and encouragement as I serve our country by meeting the spiritual needs of our airmen. I want to catch you up on some of the recent activity in our Wing.
Here are a couple of great posts by Kris Vallotton about the link between the body, soul and spirit and how they affect our faith journey:
From My Heart, March 2017 (2/23/2017)
Living in the Kingdom of God is a lot of fun.
We have been delivered from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light (Col.1.13). We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are God’s own children who are heirs to all things (Gal.4.6-7).
The Earth Cursed System (ECS) has given way to the Kingdom of God. We still war with it, but it does not have to dominate our thinking or lives. The ECS originated with Adam’s sin. It brought pain, toil and sweat upon humanity and we assume that’s just the way life is supposed to be. It is so engrained in us that we don’t even see it.
There is nothing wrong with working. We will do that in eternity. It is the lack, hardship, constant struggle, never quite enough, pay check to pay check mindset that is counter to God’s will. You hear this echoed in Matthew 6 as unbelievers are running about squawking that they never have enough _______________ (fill in the blank).
According to Galatians 3 – 4, Jesus redeemed us from the curse and we now live under the blessing of Abraham. God blessed Abraham with “life more abundantly” (John 10.10). He was: a friend of God, lived a long and satisfying life, overcame all his enemies, financially prosperous and the father of many nations. As Gen.24.1 says, “the Lord had blessed him in every way.”
I believe the followers of Jesus can live in the same abundance. There are hardships, setbacks and persecution, but I do not live below it, but rather above it through the blood of Jesus. I do not accept the ECS as normal but as a curse defeated by His blood.
The way above it is through Matthew 6.33 which tells us to seek the Kingdom of God above everything and to live righteously and he will give us everything we need. The Kingdom operates like an earthly kingdom. There are laws that govern it and when we follow those laws we experience the abundant life.
I view the Earth Cursed System like sickness. The redemptive blood of Jesus applies to every area of life. I once believed sickness was not under the blood and whatever happened must be God’s will. Since my mind has been renewed, I see sickness as an enemy and part of the curse defeated by Jesus. Yes, people still get sick and die, but I no longer default into the “whatever will be, will be” attitude. I war and rest in knowing what God’s perfect will is.
Mind renewal is the key to live in the Kingdom. We see everything through the finished work of the cross. Therefore, just as the Israelites lived under the blessings of God through their obedience, we can live in abundance through faith in Jesus.
From My Heart, December 2016 (11/28/2016)
I recently preached a two part message entitled, “The Hardest Thing You Will Ever Do.” It made some uncomfortable and struck a deep chord with others. It challenges our belief about Jesus making all things new.
Jesus said in Mark 12 that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. To rephrase the last portion: I am to love you just like I love me. What does that look like?
1 Cor.13:4-7 tells us that love is patient, kind…it keeps no records of wrongs…never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance. This is how God loves me. This is how I love others. And, this is how I love myself. I believe I am to love others the same way God loves me (unconditionally) and I am to love myself the same way He loves me (unconditionally).
Our unrenewed mind rebels against this because we consider how inconsistent, apathetic, and judgmental we are and it reveals how little we believe in the power of Jesus’ blood which makes me pure and whole through and through whether I feel it, live it or fully believe it or not.
It is only possible to love yourself the way God loves you by abiding in Jesus—John 15, 1 John 4. You know you are abiding in Him when you see yourself as a dearly loved child of God who is completely and eternally accepted and enjoyed by Him.
This is terribly hard because sin corrupted and broke everything. We began working towards love based on effort and performance. We believe: God loves me if I’m good; you love me if I treat you right; I love myself if I am doing well. It is a conditional love. The first Adam’s sin brought brokenness and death but the second Adam’s righteousness brought restoration and wholeness. Perfect love from God, for you and for me is now possible.
This is not a call to compromise or justification for my sin. In other words, just accept who I am…sin is okay…I don’t need to worry about changing., No. Rather, I see those things, but I accept myself unconditionally just as God does. I know the inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and disobedience but so does God…a WHOLE lot better that I ever will, yet He still loves me unconditionally.
Are we not to love what God loves and in the same way?
Here’s my Christmas present to you. For a week, stand in front of a mirror and say, “God loves me unconditionally, wholeheartedly and without reserve and so I love myself unconditionally, wholeheartedly and without reserve.” Watch what begins to resist that statement, because those are the things God wants to make new.
From My Heart – Quick Thought (11/5/2016)
Darren is a long-time friend and former member of Willow. I believe this article addresses a critical issue on what it means to love others well.
From My Heart – November 2016 (11/5/2016)
From My Heart, 11.16
Often we take the most basic things for granted. Things like water, love or freedom seem to just exist and we become lax in our appreciation of them. The same is true in our appreciation for Sunday.
For many, Sunday is just another day off. It has taken upon the feel of Memorial Day. We know it’s important, but we go about doing our own thing anyway.
The Bible says much about “keeping the Sabbath holy.” Passages like Ex.20.8-11 and Isa.58.13-14 are very explicit in keeping the day set apart for the Lord. In the New Testament, Christians met on the “Lord’s Day” (Acts 20.7, I Cor.16.2, Rev.1.10). The “Lord’s Day” refers to Jesus’ resurrection, which was the first day of the week.
Now I am not a legalist, and I don’t believe we are under the old covenant obligation to keep the Sabbath the same way the Jews did. We have been liberated from the law and walk in freedom, but my freedom must not be used as an excuse for apathetic behavior either.
So why must the Lord’s Day be a priority?
Every year we celebrate significant days in the life of this nation, such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving. These days are of monumental importance. If what these days represent had not occurred, then who knows where we would be or even if we would be a nation.
But foundational to both is Sunday. For if there had not been a Lord’s Day, then there would not be an Independence Day or Thanksgiving.
On the Lord’s Day we are both remembering the freedom Jesus bought us and rejoicing over His present activity among us. In the natural, creation began on Sunday. In the spiritual, the new creation began on Sunday! Forgiveness, freedom, hope and joy were released that day from an empty tomb.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s worth getting together weekly and shouting about!
The Lord bless you,