Feet First

THE AGE OF PRESSURE-FREE SOCKS

Going to get me some. But then, maybe not. The ad didn’t list a price. Could be we’ve been going at this stress and pressure thing upside down. We should try it feet first.

Reading Ezekiel 34. God is speaking to pastors. An Old Testament era pastor was not limited to preacher-types or the New Testament office of pastor. Pastoring was anyone responsible for caring for people. Mayors, governors, parents, religious leaders. Ezekiel and Yahweh got my attention and alerted my spirit. Given all I’m hearing futurists and prophets/teachers saying, I wonder if my pastoral heart is on track to talk about what my segment—sheep fold, tribe, digital parish—of God’s people is needing to hear.

“If I have my way, there are always plenty of great books to read and a good collection of classical and other instrumental music to comb the tangles from our stressed-out psyches and provide food for the soul.”  Gloria Gaither

I like that line—“to comb the tangles from our stressed-out psyches….” We watched a youTube clip about a young woman combing out her dreadlocks after six years. The comb-out took two or three people 5-6 days. It is obvious that “tangles in our stressed-out psyches” will take time to bring healing and installation of new life approach.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the widely-used words—scarcity-thinking. This permeates the world as if we are in a sum-zero closed system. That is one of the “absolutes” that pushes the protesters (not rioters) and fuels our fears. It contradicts what a reasoned reading of the Bible tells us about God and His creation. God’s favorite words (my current guess) are Abundance, Creativity, Redemption and Stewardship.

Over the past three-four months, I have been driven to tears by the revelations and teaching of two writers/teachers: Joel Salatin talking about agriculture and livestock. I was reading The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs in the car on a big-box store parking lot and felt tears on my cheeks. I felt the closeness of Jesus and the need to repent of mankind’s bad use of land and the open future if we can get this right—I caught a small glimpse of what “I’ll heal your land” might look like.

The other is Dr. Tim Elmore’s brand-new book, The Pandemic Population—Eight Strategies to help Generation Z Rediscover hope after Coronavirus.

Elmore is a student of students and generations. He sees big similarities between Gen Z and the Silent Generation also known as Builders born 1929-1945. This includes me! I have seen Builders as the earlier generation going through the Great Depression and World War II, with the Silent Generation following. The Builders became Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. Most of the great mission programs and non-profit organization were built by this group. I identify with the Silent Generation and our parents being the Builders. I sure don’t feel that I fit into the Builder’s profile.

Dr. Elmore says

“…although there are similarities in the hardships faced between the Silent/Builder Generation and Generation Z, there are remarkable differences in the outcomes. The deciding factor in this change…is the narrative with which each generation engaged the challenges they faced. When the Builder/Silent Generation faced hardship, they were encouraged to be resilient, resourceful, and respectful. When Gen Z faced similar hardships, they were encouraged to be savvy, cynical, and stoic. If we want to change the outcome, we’ve got to change how we lead Generation Z through the challenges they face.”

Can you hear “how to deal with scarcity” in those words?

Elmore uses the research of developmental psychologist Emmy Werner on children’s resilience. Ms. Werner was a child in Europe during World War II. She didn’t study or write from the cheap seats! As an adult, Werner studied the letters, journal entries, and diaries of 200 hundred child witnesses, then interviewed the survivors to learn about their experiences. Dr. Elmore says, “In her book Through the Eyes of Innocents, she writes that many of the kids became adults who held ‘an extraordinary affirmation of life.’”

When I read those words, I was stunned. Isn’t that what we desire and pray that our young will experience and attain through this cultural upheaval and Pandemic? What are the chances? How will they shed the cynicism, hopelessness, nihilism, ignorance of history and doubt that they have a reason to view their future with excitement? I hear in this study words for all generations: Resilience, Resourcefulness, Respect.

Since this is Suicide Awareness Week, this feels urgent and healing and strategies scream for listeners. Four takeaways Ms. Werner found that made a difference:

  1. EXPOSURE—Limited

Werner found that kids exposed to much calamity for many hours fared worse; the ones who had a limited amount early on, fared better. Elmore advises to put boundaries on the amount of news the kids watch. Not just kids!

Do you know the phrase, Fear of missing out—FoMO? It is a pervasive apprehension of being absent or missing important bulletins. This fear turns on an alert switch—a desire to stay continually connected. We are news junkies. We have become tuned in to all the prophets and futurists. We want to know what they are hearing from God, the latest gossip among the angels and any and every instruction from Holy Spirit. FoMO! The prophet’s latest word—which I want to hear—can lead to adrenal overload.

  1. CAREGIVERS—Loving

“A caring adult offering support was a game changer for how the kids in this research turned out as adults. These kids had adults who led them intentionally, encouraged them, and offered emotional guidance. The good news is—the adult doesn’t have to be a parent. The key is a trusted adult was present to offer guidance and support. Today, the same is true. We must offer clear guidance, emotional support, and encouragement.” (The Pandemic Population, Page 29).

  1. LEADERSHIP—Calm

“When uncertainty or danger strikes, children are ‘wired’ to look to their caregivers to interpret how safe they should feel. When the threat system is on too long without relief, physical and mental health problems can result.” (Werner)

“The key is for the kids to have an adult who continues normal routines that provide security and order amidst what may feel like chaos…the presence of a calm adult can even reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in a child’s body. This means that you as their leader must practice self-care so you are ready to offer calm leadership in a time of uncertainty.” (Elmore)

We are interacting with more than “what may feel like chaos.” There are invading revolutionaries on the streets and a pandemic in the air. Whatever we formerly thought of as up is now deemed down and all that once was right is being called wrong. Invaders are intent and active in destroying every value and virtue that gives us guardrails and handrails. It is not what feels like chaos, it is chaos. Leaders are at a loss as much as the children. It seems to me that a good question is, “What the hell is going on?” When anarchists scream outside a hospital “I hope they die,” that is witchcraft in action. They are calling upon satan and evil to take control. That is why observers called their behavior “demonic,” and the look on the rioter’s faces, evil.

Calm leadership is not an appeal for pretending that all is well or there is no reason for concern. Andy Stanley says we cannot promise certainty. We can pledge clarity and authenticity. Leaders can be transparent about their own fears when appropriate and be clear about actions being taken to fortify the gates. Age-appropriate transparency is always a good thing. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Nehemiah were prophets that clearly announced what they were hearing with a vision of the future. I like Jeremiah’s EQ. He prefaced his pronouncements with, “I really hate to tell you this….” And he cried when the news was “Pack, we’re moving.”

A pastor—parent, preacher—all responsible for giving care—do so by asking teens…

  • How is this affecting you?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What do you see as a worse-case scenario?
  • How would you want this to turn out?

The thinking about teens voting is that since they are going to be affected by what we decide, they should have a voice. My thinking is since they are wearing a mask, listen to the news and have an opinion, they should have a safe place to say, “I’m scared and this sucks! I think we should….”

Ever wonder what a “bejeebers” is? Just so you know—

“To shock or frighten one very suddenly or severely.”

I was listening to politicians and news people talking about a possible scenario immediately after the 2020 election. It shook the bejeebers out of me! I’m wondering how to prepare. Do we buy fire arms? Stockpile survival food? Put iron bars on the windows? Move to a cave with two massive dogs named Bruno and Killer? If I’m feeling those things, I know people around me are also and Gen Z, Millennials have the same anxieties. Resilience is grow-able.

  1. CALLINGPURPOSE

“…Werner’s research shows that adult leaders who embrace faith in a ‘higher power’ were able to guide kids into more resilient responses after a calamity. Ann Masten, professor at the Institute for Child Development at University of Minnesota, found ‘having a sense of purpose helps, too’” (Elmore, Page 30-31).

Gen X, Gen Z, Millenniels question what their lives are going to be. What about their calling, their desire to marry, have children, career? Some of my friends’ ministries have been shut down by the pandemic as if someone hit a kill switch. Paraphrasing, “What am I to do so I can get back to what I was created to do and do well?”

“…anxiety has replaced excitement about the future” (Tim Elmore).

I have no word from the Lord that we will ever return to what “it use to was.” So we look under the hood to ask if our talent, gift or loved activity is the primary thing. What if talent, gift or what we love to do is a tool? What do we want them to accomplish? After you have used your best in Holy Spirit anointing, what do you want to have happened? Someone learn something? Someone decide to follow Jesus? Healed? Delivered from a bondage-stronghold? Empowered? Equipped? Encouraged to give it a better shot? It is doubtful that those will ever be out of date—there is no “herd immunity” for those needs. Comfort—Equipped. Empowered, Encouraged.

“‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 40:1).

Grow these:   Resilience, Resourcefulness, Respect

©2020 D. Dean Benton –writer, wonderer

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