Unexpected Parent Cue December 2015


By Autumn Ward

One night last December, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table making Christmas cookies – by myself.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that was not the plan. That was not our tradition.

Now that my kids are teenagers with busy schedules of their own, no one else was home but me.  So there I sat, clinging to my tradition, making cookies alone – and feeling pretty sad about the whole thing. (I’m sure I let everyone know how sad I was when they got home.)

One thing parenting has taught me about traditions is that they are easy to start and hard to let go.

So what happens when the kids get older and you find yourself experiencing more transition than tradition?

The first thing I had to do was accept that transition is a part of life. It’s evidence that my kids are growing up and growing up is a good thing. It’s ok that they don’t want to watch Frosty the Snowman or make ornaments out of felt anymore. Now that they’re college and high school age their interests have changed – they are transitioning. Knowing that, if we want to stay connected with our kids, tweaking a tradition or even starting a new one needs to happen.

Second, their dad and I had to decide which traditions were worth clinging to and which ones we needed to let go. We did this by simply asking the kids which traditions meant the most to them. This helped so much! I was surprised by some of the things they said, like getting a peppermint milkshake in our PJs while driving around looking at Christmas lights had to stay. That one still gets two thumbs up! Making the gingerbread house on the other hand…it could go. (And while we’re at it, the Christmas cartoons could go too!) Who knew? They knew! Deciding on traditions with the kids gave us permission to let go of some things – guilt free – and stop trying to force moments to happen that they had outgrown.

Finally, I had to remind myself the purpose of traditions in the first place. Traditions are meant to keep us connected to the ones we love and give us a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves – not make us feel exhausted, frustrated and disappointed (maybe even a little depressed). As long as I have a relationship with my kids, things are good. We don’t have to make Christmas cookies to stay connected or to have a relationship or even to have a wonderful Christmas. We just need time with each other.

Now that I have one kid away at college and two teens at home, being together in the same place at the same time is difficult, which makes keeping up with our traditions difficult. I’m learning to make the most of the time I have with my family rather than pout over the time I don’t have.
If we have some minutes in the car, we turn up the Christmas music and sing together. So what if we’re not gathered around the fireplace like we did when they were younger.
Since watching the holiday Hallmark movies is one of my kids’ favorite things to do, I make sure and record them so when we find ourselves together I can pop the popcorn and have a spontaneous movie night.

I allow my kids’ friends to join the fun because my kids really like being with their friends. Rather than look at it like their friends are invading our traditions, I’m thankful my kids and their friends are letting me hangout with them. It’s all in your perspective.

The point is we’re together, staying connected with the ones we love during the holidays.  After all, when you really think about it, it’s the relationship with your kids you should be fighting for, not the tradition. So keep a loose grip on those traditions but hold tightly to the hearts of your kids.


As parents, it can be tempting to assume which holiday traditions are most important for our family members and which ones aren’t. This Christmas, try asking your son or daughter…

•Which Christmas traditions do you hope we keep going for a long time?
•Which ones would you be okay with ending?
•What is one new tradition you’d like to start this year?

By starting the conversation, you may be surprised at what you find. Sometimes traditions that seem silly to us are the most meaningful and memorable to our kids. Remember, fight for the relationship with your kid, not the tradition.

Unexpected: Middle School Christmas Series


Unexpected: Series Overview
When it comes to Christmas, there is a lot to look forward to. Candy canes, tinsel, twinkling lights, and—oh, right. The gifts. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably spent some time thinking about the gifts you’re hoping to receive this Christmas. Maybe you’ve even made a list so your friends and family know exactly what to give you. But while it’s fun to unwrap a gift you’ve been waiting and hoping for, have you ever been given a gift that took you entirely by surprise? A gift you didn’t even know you wanted until you opened it? A gift that was completely unexpected? Unexpected gifts have been at the heart of the Christmas story for more than two thousand years, beginning with the very first Christmas. And believe it or not, it was God who began the tradition. For the next few weeks, we’ll talk about three times God surprised the world with a gift that was entirely unexpected. And, as we do, we might just discover how much those gifts continue to matter today.


BOTTOM LINE: God is with you.

SCRIPTURE:  “… And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” MATTHEW 1:1-16 (NIV)

“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son.” GALATIANS 4:4 (NIV)


SESSION 2: BY MY SIDE (December 6)

BOTTOM LINE: Jesus gets you.

SCRIPTURE:  “…She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.’” MATTHEW 1:20-23 (NLT)

“[He] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do.” HEBREWS 4:15 (NLT)



BOTTOM LINE: The Holy Spirit helps you.

SCRIPTURE:  “‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’” MATTHEW 28:18-20 (NIV)

“‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.’” JOHN 14:15-17A (NIV)

The Science Behind Effective Coaching

Check out http://growingleaders.com/blog/category/athletics/ for more articles by Dr. Time Elmore

I recently finished watching video coverage of the last batch of inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It prompted me to watch even more footage from the last three years of inductees. I focused my attention on the managers who were given an honor representing the pinnacle of their career. The last three managers inducted into the HOF used what I would call a “new school” style of coaches, rather than “old school.” They embraced a different approach to connecting with athletes. Whether conscious of it or not, they found ways to coach and connect with players from Generation X and the Millennial Generation in another manner than, say, Billy Martin or Leo Durocher did back in the day.

After studying effective coaches, in both professional and NCAA levels, I have come to some intriguing conclusions, at least for me. While “old school” coaching was the norm decades ago, replete with yelling, anger, distant personalities and the focus on improving weaknesses, today’s “new school” coaches motivate young athletes using new methods. What “old school” coaches used to call a “soft” approach is working far better these days. Whether or not we like it, it’s actually getting results.

And now, we can peer into the science behind why this is.


photo credit: 100706-218-4×6 via photopin (license)

The Science Behind the Switch From Old School to New School

Over the past few decades, neuroscience has leaped forward thanks to improvements in medical imaging technology. We’re now able to see more definitively how the human brain responds to stimuli.

I found an article by Marshall Moore which was posted in a Berkeley publication very intriguing:

“In a study, published in Social Neuroscience, researchers collected data from undergraduates at Case Western Reserve University. After finishing an initial questionnaire measuring their emotional tendencies, students had two interviews within five days. One of the interviews was a positive-based coaching session in which the ‘positive’ interviewer would ask questions such as, ‘If everything worked out ideally in your life, what would you be doing in 10 years?’

“The second, ‘negative’ interviewer took on a more traditional coaching style, with questions designed to have the students assess their performance in terms of ideal standards: ‘What challenges have you encountered or do you expect to encounter in your experience here? How are you doing with your courses? Are you doing all your homework and readings?’

“After both interviews had been completed, 20 of the students went into a functional MRI machine to measure their brain activity as they endured a third interview (conducted by video) with the same ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ interviewers, appearing separately. As the researchers predicted, students indicated that the positive interviewer inspired them and fostered feelings of hope far more effectively than the negative interviewer.

The areas of the brain activated by these two approaches were most telling. Moore continues, “During the encouraging interactions with the positive interviewer, students showed patterns of brain activity that prior research associated with global processing (the ability to see the big picture before seeing small details), visual processing (the ability to see or imagine the future), feelings of empathy and emotional safety (fostering transparency and trust), and motivation (the predisposition to pursue big goals, instead of playing it safe).”

Not surprising, I believe the findings in this study can help coaches lead today’s athletes. Below, I offer you my interpretation of four tools that “new school” coaches utilize:

  1. Strength-based Coaching – Enabling a player to focus on developing their strengths and envision performing well when in his or her “strength zone” should take priority before tweaking a weak area. Moore stated in his article “Brain scans explored the effects of different coaching styles. Based on what’s happening in the brain, this more positive approach helps people visualize a better future for themselves—and provide the social-emotional tools to help them realize their vision.”
  1. Visual-based Coaching – Humans are visual learners. Our brains think in pictures. There are the regions that kick into gear when we imagine a future event or when someone provides imagery to guide our understanding. Based on research from 3M, visuals in a classroom accelerate learning by 400%. Further, they tell us images increase engagement as the eye processes visual information 60,000 times faster than verbal. We’ve all said it: a picture’s worth a thousand words. 65% of American’s are visual learners, and I believe its even more among the emerging generation. Socrates told us 4,000 years ago, “The soul does not think without a picture.”
  1. Trust-based Coaching – This means our style communicates we believe the best about our players. We give them the benefit of the doubt, until they forfeit that right. (And even then, we err on the side of trust). Trust-based coaches have very few rules, but lots of equations. Instead of a long list of rules, you merely state that this kind of behavior results in this benefit, or that kind of behavior results in this consequence. It enables the coach to lead in a quiet yet authoritative manner. For instance, when giving hard feedback, this coach might say: “I’m giving you these comments because I know you’re capable of achieving them. I believe in you and your potential and can see you playing a key role on this team.”
  1. Relationship-based Coaching – This means our style connects with each player relationally, based on their personality and strength. You lead by cultivating personal power, not using positional power. You realize your position gives you authority, but your relationships earn you influence and trust. Players go the “extra mile” and give you more than they would by merely fulfilling a job description. They follow you out of “devotion” not “duty,” and it’s because their coach has initiated a relationship with them. For instance, this coach may ask to spend extra time with an athlete who’s ethnically diverse and say, “Hey, I know we come from different backgrounds—so I’d like to get to know you better and see how much we have in common.”

I’m looking forward to seeing more research in this area. In the meantime, I think we can put what we’ve learned from this study into practice by being open to new styles of coaching and communication.

I recently spoke to a baseball player who used to play for the Kansas City Royals. Although he’d been released, he was writing a thank you note to their management. When I asked him why, he smiled and said, “They treated me like family. I’d do anything for Dayton Moore.”

That’s what “new school” coaches tend to get from athletes.

– See more at: http://growingleaders.com/blog/the-science-behind-effective-coaching/?utm_source=Master+List+%28Monthly%2C+Weekly%2C+Daily%2C+Events+%26+Offers%29&utm_campaign=8dd60c4b50-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b8af65516c-8dd60c4b50-304459745#sthash.BNsFHNnu.dpuf

We are at war: 2 lessons from the Paris massacre

“Friday’s Paris strike is not just another in a growing cavalcade of terrorist assaults; instead it signals a tactical change in Islamic terrorist strategies—one that militants have been moving towards for years.” Newsweek‘s Kurt Eichenwald is right.

In 2008, coordinated terror attacks in Mumbai killed more than 175 people. They showed that a small number of suicidal jihadists with sufficient ammunition and preparation could devastate a confined urban area. Militants used the same strategy five years later in Nairobi, Kenya, killing sixty-seven people at a shopping mall.

Last month, a double suicide bombing at a peace rally in the Turkish capital killed more than 100 people. The day before the Paris massacre, a double suicide attack on a crowded urban area in Beirut, Lebanon killed more than forty. Authorities believe a jihadist arrested last week may have been planning a similar attack in Istanbul. Now we have seen the effectiveness of this barbaric strategy in Paris.

What do France, Turkey, and Lebanon have in common? They have recently escalated attacks on Islamic State forces in Syria. Now the jihadists are striking back. In their view, we are at war with Islam. Since the Qur’an requires Muslims to defend Islam (Sura 2:190-192), these militants believe they are obligated to attack us. And since the West is composed of democracies, where citizens elect their leaders and support their military financially, ISIS believes we are all complicit in this war. (For more, see my The Islamic State: What You Need to Know.)

So we can expect more attacks like the massacre in Paris. Any urban center could be the terrorists’ next target. There is no end in sight to what The Wall Street Journal calls “the Long War Against Terrorism.”

What should we learn from the Paris tragedy? How should we respond?

First, the Paris massacre shows that no one is promised tomorrow, that we must “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16, NIV). What happened in France could happen anywhere.

So surrender this day to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), choosing to live and serve in God’s power for God’s glory. Pray for your non-Christian friends and share Christ with them, because every soul deserves to hear the gospel before it’s too late. Live each day as if you would meet Jesus today, because one day you’ll be right.

Second, the spread of jihadist violence shows that Satan is threatened by the advance of the gospel. Radical Islam has arisen at a time when more Muslims have come to Christ than ever before in Islamic history. And Paris has been attacked at a time when the church in France is experiencing a remarkable resurgence. Friends of mine who work with European Christian movements say a genuine revival is at work in this secular nation.

So expect the enemy of God to attack the children of God, and refuse to be afraid. Jesus warned us, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Then he called us to “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Know that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). And your joyful courage will be your witness to a frightened world.

Hours after the attacks in France, Parisians came outside bearing signs that proclaimed, “We are not afraid.” Let us join them.


Soul Fuel: “Agents” Against a Spiritual SPECTRE


“Agents” Against a Spiritual SPECTRE

Bond…James Bond.

Wouldn’t you love to introduce yourself that way? Or at least meet Agent 007, the legendary character who has inspired 23 films over the last 50 years!

Think about it, if you are a teenager, then your grandparents probably went to see a Bond movie back in the day. And as well, the original actor who played the first Bond (Sean Connery) could BE your grandpa!

But here we are in 2015, with Daniel Craig’s steely blue-eyed gaze that penetrates the hearts of the good, the bad and the ugly in his explosion-a-minute world. In this latest release, he comes face to face with an organization called SPECTRE, which stands for: Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

Man I would love...You gotta give these guys props for being very straightforward with their motives — right? Basically this is a global terrorist organization with no political alliances made up of characters from The Gestapo, The Mafia, drug cartels and a host of other groups that don’t play well with others.

But when they play together, they wreak havoc on people and property in a very “specter”-like fashion (spectre is the British spelling for specter—meaning “ghost”— get it?)

Enter James Bond—a man armed and ready to foil the evil plans of SPECTRE and bring justice for their victims. He is a powerhouse combination of brains and brawn, and he is fearless in the face of danger.

Man—I would love to be James Bond for a day. I’d love to come face to face with an eeeeeeevil SPECTRE agent and take him down to Prisontown—wouldn’t you?

But wait…if you and I are followers of Christ, we are faced with the battle between good and evil on a spiritual level each and every day. Our enemy is not SPECTRE, but it is a much more powerful array of forces drawn together under the leadership of SATAN.

And when we feel discouraged or overwhelmed in the battle, we can gain great hope from this amazing encounter:

They sailed on to the country of the Gerasenes, directly opposite Galilee. As he stepped out onto land, a madman from town met him; he was a victim of demons. He hadn’t worn clothes for a long time, nor lived at home; he lived in the cemetery. When he saw Jesus he screamed, fell before him, and bellowed, “What business do you have messing with me? You’re Jesus, Son of the High God, but don’t give me a hard time!” (The man said this because Jesus had started to order the unclean spirit out of him.) Time after time the demon threw the man into convulsions. He had been placed under constant guard and tied with chains and shackles, but crazed and driven wild by the demon, he would shatter the bonds.

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Mob. My name is Mob,” he said, because many demons afflicted him. And they begged Jesus desperately not to order them to the bottomless pit.

A large herd of pigs was browsing and rooting on a nearby hill. The demons begged Jesus to order them into the pigs. He gave the order. It was even worse for the pigs than for the man. Crazed, they stampeded over a cliff into the lake and drowned (Luke 8:26-33, The Message).

Amazing—right? Jesus comes face to face with a man who has the strength of The Hulk and a host of powerful demons.

Don't make the mistake of thinking...

But the Son of God need only speak a word, and the evil was blown away like a leaf in a tornado. The man was freed from Satan’s power, and if you read the rest of his story, he went back to his hometown and became a powerful witness for Jesus.

Did you know that the same power Jesus used to cast out the demons lives in you? The Holy Spirit indwells your soul, therefore through Him you have the power to blow away evil as well!

But don’t make the mistake that many Christians make—thinking that people are the problem. No, the evil we fight is spiritual in nature and demonic in origin. So the “weapons” we use are things like the Word of God, prayer and faith that God will be victorious.

So if you aren’t feeling as bold as Bond lately in your efforts against the powers of darkness, remember the power of Jesus and the tools He has given us to be effective “agents” in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Darkness.

And may your heart be shaken—not just stirred—for THE Cause!

Let’s take a cue from 007 to be motivated in our efforts to be used by Jesus! If Jesus can cast out a mob of demons in one man, think about what He can do in your situation!

PRAY: Father, thank You for Your power over all evil and the Kingdom of darkness. Help us be bold and confident in the calling you’ve placed on our lives.
READ: Ephesians 6:10-12. A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
GET: Youth Group 2 Go: Know Thy Enemy: Youth Leaders! In order to defend ourselves, we must understand our enemy and his agenda so we can effectively engage in spiritual warfare in the power of the Holy Spirit. Check out this excellent, downloadable youth group lesson that explores how we can battle against Satan and his demons who are seeking to destroy the plans of God and the people of God.

Live THE Cause

Want to use this Soul Fuel as a bible study with your students this week? Copy and text them the following: “Did you know that the same power Jesus used against spiritual darkness lives in you? Learn more in this week’s devo: http://hubs.ly/H01lKWw0