Learning How to Pray for Families Who Are Back to School

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 9.15.24 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-28 at 9.15.43 AMIt is back-to-school week in our house.  We survived the first four days, and are expecting to make it a full week without complete breakdown.  Crossing our fingers.  It wasn’t an easy wakeup or carline drop-off this morning.

As a family making this transition back-to-school, I know firsthand some of the ups and downs.  It’s an ebb and flow of emotions both good and bad.  Some moments are filled with smiles and laughter while others are darkened by frowns and crying.  It’s a week of schizophrenic type behavior as a group.  At least one of us at any given time in the day are acting out in some way.

We, and most families who are back-to-schoolf, could use your prayers.  Don’t panic.  We are OK.  It’s just a phase.  We have done this before.  We will make it out alive and well.  Still, your prayers would be much appreciated.

Based on my experience, here’s how you can pray:

  • Pray for sleep.  Most families dropped the strict bedtime routine in the summer months.  Kids aren’t used to going to bed early so they can wake early.  Acclimating back to this pattern takes time and negotiation.  One thing is for sure:  healthy sleep patterns are a requirement for sanity.  Please pray for sleep.
  • Pray for courage.  School can be a scary place, especially for new students whether it’s a kindergartner or a transfer.  For some, it’s the first time they will be without mommy and/or daddy for a full day.  Fears creep in their little hearts and spirits.  Please pray for courage.
  • Pray for friends.  Each new school year introduces students to an entirely different set of classmates.  One year, your best friend may be in your class.  The next year, she may not.  Students must learn to re-socialize with new faces and names.  The ability to make friends is essential.  It’s where students find happiness and support in those long days of hard work.  Please pray for friends.
  • Pray for teachers.  Teachers spend more focused time with students during the week than many parents.  For a solid 7 hours, teachers have the attention of your kids.  It’s a HUGE job many of us wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  Teachers need patience, grace, vision, kindness, passion, forgiveness, and a whole list of other attributes.  A teacher can make all the difference in a student’s desire to learn.  Please pray for teachers.
  • Pray for parents.  Back-to-school is an adjustment for mommies and daddies, too.  Like our kids, sleep patterns relaxed in the summer.  Summer schedules were more flexible.  We made time for some fun and relaxation. Now, it’s back to timeliness and routine.  Days become more full with morning rituals, school drop-off and pickup, work, homework, after school snack time, exercise, dinner, shower, wind down time, bed time, and repeat.  The day kind of just runs all together.  By the time kids are off to sleep, parents barely have enough energy to hold their own eyes open.  There is little time to relax and breathe, especially for single parents.  Please pray for parents.
  • Pray for grace.  With all this new stress, emotions will run high and low.  Words will be said out of frustration in ways not so pleasant.  Feelings will hurt.  Misunderstandings will be inevitable.  It  may seem as though everyone has gone crazy at some points.  It’s really just our emotions adjusting to a difficult transition.  Please pray for grace for one another.

Families who are back-to-school could use your prayers.  I hope this gives you a starting place.  My list isn’t exhaustive.  Please feel free to add to it in the comments.

For those of who do pray, every back-to-school family says, “Thank you!”

Learning to Be OK with Embarrassment

20 years ago I couldn’t admit at what I’m about to tell you.  It was unacceptable in my childhood church world.  The social code forbade it.

I danced.  I danced in church.  Worse yet, I danced in church on stage as a pastor.

Will I do it again?  Most likely not.  Dancing is an activity I avoid at all costs.  Not for moralistic reasons, but for the sake of maintaining my own dignity.  I was not born with dancing feet.  I look like a fish out of water flopping all over the floor searching for that safe place back in my natural environment.  Painful to watch.

Only 3 times have I willingly made a decision to attempt dancing:  Senior Prom, my wedding reception, and last Saturday Night at Highland Park Church.  Why?  Well, the first two times were for a girl named, Brooklyn, who is now my wife.  One of those things you do for love.  Having done it twice for her,  I no longer feel compelled to prove my love in such ways.  Hahaha, can’t wait to see what social media posts she will put out there after reading that line.  The second reason I made a conscious choice to dance was, hmmm, I don’t know?  Peer pressure, I guess.

Here’s how it happened.  In a recent sermon, I mentioned songs from my youth.  Included in said list was the once popular song by MC Hammer, “You Can’t Touch This.”  A friend and faithful follower of Christ walked away from my message with a compulsion to buy “Hammer pants” for me.  I had no idea he was in cahoots with my wife, Brooklyn.  They had created an entire scheme together.

Our families were out to brunch one day, when they breakout the “Hammer pants” and hand them to me.  They cajoled, “We bought these for you to wear when you preach.  You have to do it.”  All three adults stared at me with sinister smiles, essentially communicating there’s no way out of this one.

Nooooooooooo!  I thought in my head.  My mouth said, “Sure, I’ll do it.”  In my mind, I was curling up like a baby in a fetal position sucking my thumb.  In my outer appearance, I played it cool.  Unwilling to expose my fear, I locked myself in to a commitment to do this thing.

A couple weeks later, I stood backstage of our sanctuary wearing “Hammer pants.”  Alone, I pumped myself with self-talk.  “You can do this, You can do this, it will be over in less than 30 seconds,” I kept repeating.  I stared at my ridiculous reflection in a mirror with absolute fright.  I felt like a little kid pacing back and forth on a diving board trying to decide if I can make this jump.

An excerpt of the song “Can’t Touch This” graciously prepared by our tech team kicked in, which was my cue to walk onto stage.  I did it.  Here’s the result:

Facebook post of video

It was one of the top 3 most embarrassing moments in my life.  I looked a fool in the presence of my church community, including first time visitors.  I was ready to crawl under a rock.  But, I still had to preach a sermon.  Two worship songs and a wardrobe change later, I came back out on stage and delivered a message.

I survived.  I was embarrassed, but I am OKAY.  No scratches or permanent damage.  For a glimpse of a second (7 seconds to be exact), I let others see the goofy, awkward side of me.  I laid aside my ego and put my humiliating self out there.  I stepped out of my perfectionist personality.

Here’s what I learned.  Embarrassment is a sign of lack of confidence.  Lack of confidence prevents me from taking risks that could help me reach my full potential.  If I don’t feel like I have what it takes to do it, I will not embarrass myself attempting it in front of anyone else.  I don’t want to be “that guy.”

Reality is, everyone starts out looking stupid. Learning to be OK with embarrassment helps you move past barriers to growth.  It sets you free to look silly until eventually you don’t.  It enables you move past your insecurities to a place where you find freedom to be you without fear.

I’m not saying I will take up dancing.  So, don’t get any ideas.  I do pray for the courage to be OK with embarrassment for the sake of God’s transformation in my life and in the world.  I pray you will become OK with embarrassment so we can laugh and grow together.


Learning Why You Should Join a Life Group

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 1.40.32 PMLife group.  Small group.  Whatever you call it, you should join one.  Not because I said so, but because it is beneficial to your well-being and spiritual growth.

I realize not everyone reading this goes to Highland Park Church in Lakealnd, FL.  Many of you attend other churches, and some of you are several states away. Literally, thousands of miles separate you from me.  If not, an entirely different theology stands between us.  Don’t check out.  Read on.

Joining a group matters, and here’s why: “The truth is that happiness is more about a who than a what.”  -Andy Stanley

I didn’t come up with this phrase, someone much more more established me than me did.  That’s okay.  The messages is still the same. I am grateful for a leader who can put it into plain words.  The point is:  Who you surround yourself with is more important than what you surround with. 

If you are like me, your life is busy.  It is filled with work, school for your kids, after school activities, time at the gym, dinner, bedtime activities, and then an early alarm the next morning.  You know what it feels like to be tired at 9:30pm.  You’ve got nothing left.

The same routine happens five days a week.  The weekend is recovery time.  Then, you start it all over again on Monday.  When do you have time for deep friendships that grow your faith?

Before I go any further, I agree with you.  You don’t need an official “Life Group” to establish friendships.  Some of you have this already built into your life.  Problem is, you are the excpeption.  Many of you have struggle to find this support when it comes to your faith.  You feel alone on an island with thousands of miles between you and anyone else who understands the journey you are on.

This is where a life group comes in.  A “life group” is a group of believers who are seeking support on their journey of faith together.  It is a community of Christ followers who support others in their walk toward transformation.  It is the people you turn to when everywhere else you look to points you in the wrong direction.   It is a group of people who love you more than they love their own ideas or philosophies.  A life group is an intimate network of people who will invest in whatever it takes for your growth in grace.  They desire what’s best for you, not what benefits their own desires.

This is rare to find in life.  Most of your friends will take what you can give.  The purpose of a life group is to give to others what they need to take.  Not for your benefit or gain, but always for their spiritual growth.  It is a self-emptying so that others might be filled.

I was reminded of this as we were filming the videos for Highland Park Church’s fall life group series, “Basic.”  I, we, as pastors at our church don’t want to become famous with these videos.  We want to be used of God as a catalyst for growth in your life of faith.  Our desire is to encourage the coming together of groups for the sole purpose of supporting one another in our journey toward becoming all God created you to be.  That’s it.

So, if you live in Lakeland and/or attend Highland Park Church, we hope you will join a Life Group this Fall as we walk through a 6 week series called “Basic.”  If you don’t live in Lakeland or attend our church, I pray you find a small group of people who will support you in your spiritual growth.  My hope is that you can name those who you can turn to when your faith is challenged and you have no idea how you will traverse the road ahead.

If you do live in Lakeland, you should join a Life Group at Highland Park Church because happiness in life is more about a who than a what.  You can acquire all the “what’s” you desire, but they will never replace the significance of the “who’s.”

BASIC Life Group Series at Highland Park Church starts September 13.  For contact information, go to HP Life Groups.





Learning Where You Can Find Music that Will Inspire Your Child to Read the Bible

Brooklyn’s network in youth ministry reaches across the United States.  If you know someone in youth ministry, chances are they know Brooklyn or know someone who knows Brooklyn.  It’s not confirmed, but I would guess she is no more than 3 degrees away from 90% of the youth pastors in our country.

Working in ministry as well, it’s not unusual for me to receive an email from someone in her network.  The message normally goes something like this:  “Hi Coy, I’m not sure if we’ve met.  My name is (insert first and last name) and I know Brooklyn from (insert youth ministry event name)I am part of (insert ministry name) and we are touring in your area soon.  I’ve attached a link to one of our videos if you would like to take a look at what we do.  We would love the opportunity to share our ministry at your church.  Let us know if you are interested.  Thank you, and tell Brooklyn hi.”

Some of the ministries seem really awesome, and others not so much.  Those in the second category I avoid like the plague.  It’s tough to offer a sensitive reply.  My brain is telling me to write, “The preview video of your ministry stinks.  You probably need to rethink shooting a professional video.  If not, then maybe you should scrap what you are doing and start over with a fresh idea.”  That’s not nice, though.  My heart tells me to be compassionate and write something like, “Wow, thank you for this opportunity.  We are not able to invite your ministry to our church at this time.  I hope you are able to fill your dates.”

The most recent email came from a ministry in the first category.  Based on the website and videos, it seemed legit.  They are Pop Scritpure Songs.  It is a worship band of students ranging from middle school to college who write and perform scripture songs.  Their sole purpose is to familiarize young students to powerful biblical promises and infuse the truth into their hearts and souls.  To check it out, click on this link.

We invited them to our church.  They performed a concert for our Elementary Ministry during our weekend worship services.  It was awesome!  Kids were jumping up and down, clapping their hands, dancing, and singing their hearts out along with the band.  It was a beautiful moment of students leading students.

On the way out, our daughter grabbed a CD and snagged a few autographs.  It was so cute.  She looked at them like they were rockstars.  I’m sure she would be a roadie for them if they asked.

As soon as we walked into our home, she pulled out the CD player.  Pop Scripture Songs were blasted throughout the house.  From one end to the other, you could hear every song.  Underneath it all, you could also hear an 8 year old voice singing along.  So sweet.

A couple nights later at bedtime, our 8 year old pulls out her Bible.  She wants to read Habakkuk.  A song has been replaying in her head all day, “As the waters cover the sea, Habakkuk 2:14.”  She needs to know the story that gives context to these words.  She sits on the floor in her room with the Bible in her lap reading the first two chapters of Habakkuk to her five year old sister.  Together, they entered into the storied world of God’s Word.

Thank you, Pop Scripture Songs!

If you are looking for a new CD for your Elementary age child, I highly recommend Pop Scripture Song’s new “The EP.”  Who knows, maybe your kid will be compelled to read Habakkuk?  It might even inspire to you read it, too.