Is it really better to go to a funeral than a party?

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OK, let’s be honest, attending a funeral is usually not high on our list of things to do as no one enjoys saying goodbye especially when death is unexpected.  However, we are told in the Bible that it’s better to go to a funeral than a party. Why?

Attending a funeral has a way of refocusing our attention on what is really important in life. A funeral allows one to contemplate their own death and whether they are prepared to meet God (Romans 2:6-1114:10). Also, when we hear the testimony of a life well lived we tend to reexamine our own life as we each have a dash between our birth date and death date.  This dash symbolizes our entire lives—the time we have to create meaning for God, our families, our communities, and ourselves.

At funerals I tend to examine my life as I’m responsible for what I’m doing with it.  We’re told our days are fleeting, life is temporary, and our length of time is not promised. Death is certain for each of us and only God knows the number of our days.

Job 14:5 You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.

This year I’ve attended four funerals or, more accurately, “life celebrations.”  Honestly, I can say that these four men all profoundly touched the lives of so many and each left behind a beautiful legacy.

Back in March we received the incredibly sad news that our friend’s son was killed in an auto accident.  On December 13th he would have been 25, the same age as our eldest daughter which made his death harder.  Josh had recently graduated from Wheaton, had a promising career, and was newly married. The death of someone so young is so perplexing.   When I think of Josh I will always remember his smile and zest for life.  I left the memorial service realizing that death can happen at any moment to anyone of us and at any age.   A recording of Josh singing I Can Only Imagine that was played at the service providing peace, hope, and encouragement for those of us left behind, as Josh was in awe by the presence of Jesus.

In July, my friend Stacy lost her in-laws in a tragic car accident.  Jon and I felt lead to attend her father in-laws funeral to show our support and love for her.  While we had never met Ron Buck we both left the service saying we wish we had known him as others shared about this wonderful Godly man.

On December 5th, Ronnie Smith was gunned down during his morning jog near the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He and his wife moved overseas about two years ago to teach high school chemistry and to be a blessing to the Libyan people.

I first met Ronnie about five years ago as he was a teaching leader at our church. He was passionate about teaching and equipping those who took his classes.  What I will remember him for is the passion for which he had for memorizing God’s word.  The most impactful sermon I ever heard was given by Ronnie incorporating scripture from Genesis to Revelation reminding me of God’s History of Redemption.  A beautiful table book was complied and completed in 2010 to accompany the second time Ronnie preached The History of Redemption, before heading overseas to teach and love others.  This book is a beautiful keepsake and the perfect gift to give to others plus a tangible way to support Ronnie’s family.  I am thankful that our lives intersected and for the wonderful legacy that Ronnie leaves behind.  My prayers are with Ronnie’s wife Anita and his son.  A special fund has been set up to support his family in the untimely death of their husband and father.

On December 10th, Michael Adams succumbed to his two year battle with cancer.  He lived in our neighborhood and lived life fully with more optimism and hope than many people I know.   Michael always made time to talk and was interested in what you had to say as well as interesting to listen to.  I, like most people, will miss seeing him ride his bike in the neighborhood with his huge grin.  It broke my heart when I saw his wife and four children (15, 12, 7, 7) at the funeral as they will greatly miss him.  He requested that family and friends ride their bikes to the church plus wear his favorite color green or a bike jersey.

Last month I read When Will the Heaven Begin?: This Is Ben Breedlove’s Story. This is an incredibly inspirational and heartrending memoir about the life of Ben Breedlove who died on Christmas day of a heart attack at the young age of 18.  I’ve known Ben and his family for years and his story is amazing. The week before his death he posted a remarkable video, This is my Story describing the peace and bright lights he’d found the other times his heart stopped. Ben makes it clear that death is not something to be feared. This book offers peace and hope in knowing that someday we will see those who have preceded us in death.

Psalm 39:4 “O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

So indeed more wisdom and insight is gleaned when attending a funeral verses a party. Since we all must die, one is usually faced with their own mortally when attending the funeral for family or friends.  Are you living with no regrets? Will you be proud to stand before your Maker? Christmas is only a week away so remember Jesus Christ came to earth so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. He also came to die and shed His blood as a substitute in our place.

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Let’s Talk Sex – High School and Beyond

But they are still my baby?! Your children will always be your babies, but sexual attraction does not cease with age and it is advantageous to be aware of this fact. Sexual attraction is normal. It is part of life. Are you keeping yourself educated as the parents and are you intentionally engaging with your children about topics including dating, crushes, school dances, and healthy boundaries? More than these outward manifestations, are you engaging with your child’s heart? Are you purposefully spending time with each child and making yourself available as a safe space for your children to share information and ask questions? These are important questions to ponder throughout the rest of your child’s life. Presently, however, there are some things that you may want to be aware of as your child journeys through high school.

Gone are the days when boys called the parents home phone in order to ask the daughter out on a date. Cell phones have taken the place of the family phone and texting has been substituted for calls. As such, it is wise to talk to your children about sexting. For those that don’t know, sexting is the modern equivalent of what we used to call phone sex. You don’t think that sexting is a real issue? Let me share some statistics that might change your mind. The percent of teenagers who have sent or posted nude/ semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves:

  • 20% of teenagers overall
  • 22% of teen girls
  • 18% of teen boys
  • 11% of young teen girls ages 13-16

The percent of teenagers sending or posting sexually suggestive messages:

  • 39% of all teenagers
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys

While it is extremely important for parents to teach their children about Internet and phone/texting safety, such as online privacy, it is also important to discuss more tangible activities like school dances. Before school dances, it is wise to talk about physical boundaries. In today’s day and age, school dances look a lot more like sex with clothes on than innocent fun. Remind your children that they are powerful and don’t have do things simply because everyone else is doing it. One way to bring this up is to talk to your children about twerking, the new dance move that is common amongst teens and is seen in Miley Cyrus’ new music video. Essentially, this dance move involves hip thrusting movements in a low squatting position. This style of dancing is not uncommon at school dances and is helpful to discuss before your children attend these dances.

As a family, it is important to have open communication regarding what age you feel it is appropriate for your children to date. There is no magical age, but it is wise to have some basic ground rules and convictions set in place before another young girl or boy comes into the picture and infatuation matures. Our family, for instance, encouraged our daughters to wait until they were at a marrying age to date. We often talked about the purpose of dating, which we decided to view with a bit more intentionality than most people. As such, our girls decided to not date until after high school. In the meantime, we encouraged them to form friendships with the opposite sex and learn how to appreciate others likes, dislikes, and values. This helped our daughters begin to establish their own values and recognize their own persona.

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While our daughters decided to wait to date until they were out of high school, it is important to reiterate with your children what purity is and discuss topics such as STD’s regardless of what your family decides about dating. Obviously, the purpose of this isn’t to scare your children but to make them aware that the notion of “safe sex” simply isn’t true. Have you ever looked at the statistics on STD’s? It is shocking!  As such, it is better to over communicate with your children than assume that they understand these things. This should include bringing up topics such as oral sex. Many children are led to believe that oral sex is safe because it doesn’t produce a baby, but what they don’t know is that it can lead to sexually transmitted diseases. In return, this is often where teens draw the line because no one talks to them about sex or the consequences of their choices. Here are some statistics to be aware of:

  • Although 15–24-year-olds represent only one-quarter of the sexually active population, they account for nearly half (9.1 million) of the 18.9 million new cases of STI’s each year.
  • Each year, almost 750,000 U.S. women aged 15–19 become pregnant.
  • The US has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world.
  • Each year in the United States, about 750,000 adolescent females become pregnant, 20,000 young people are newly infected with HIV, and nearly four million new STI infections occur among 15- to 19-year-olds.
  • By their 19th birthday, seven out of ten teens have engaged in sexual intercourse.

Boundaries are an important thing to discuss with both your sons and daughters. Teach your daughters how to practically say “no” to sexual advances and teach your sons how to respect a woman and how to handle advances from girls. Show your teens how to reinforce physical limits, maintain their personal boundaries, and use their voices. Practically, this might look like encouraging them to not enter into the opposite sex’s bedroom when alone or even home if the parents are not there. Teaching your children these things at a young age, and giving them tools to avoid advances, can help prevent date rape. Sadly, studies show that nearly one in four college women are sexually assaulted. Of those, about 70% knew their attacker. Before your teens go to parties, talk to them about the importance of not accepting a drink from a stranger. One of the best practical protections against date rape is to not allow your teens to go to parties alone and remind them to always trust their gut instincts. While this may be a scary talk to have, especially with your daughters, remind them that they can call you at anytime and you will pick them up.

Clearly there is a lot of information to discuss with your children as they enter into adulthood. The key is to encourage open communication and be engaged in your children’s lives. For parents, this might look like keeping up to date with chat acronyms, text message shorthand, new movies, and popular music. While it is a lot of information, relax and don’t be so serious. Ask your teens questions and take them out on fun dates for goodness sake! Get to know their friends and make your home a place that they will want to come home to and invite their friends to.

More statistics to be aware of:

A resource for understanding teen slang:

Happy 25th Birthday Caryn

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It seems like only yesterday that I (mom) anxiously welcomed my bundle of joy into this world.  I was unprepared, scared, and excited all at the same time.  She arrived at 7:09am and her dad, instead of saying push, was encouraging me to wait another three minutes so her delivery time would be 7:12am as we were married at 7:12pm on 6/1/85 and his fraternity number was 712.  However you made a grand entrance beating your own drum and you were a born to be a leader.

The visions I had for you back then gradually but drastically changed as we aligned our will to His ways. Your dad and I were only eleven months into our faith so we had a steep learning curve. One of our first bible studies was on biblical parenting 🙂  I wanted to be the perfect mom.   I know that was such an unattainable and lofty goal.  I recall us writing in your baby book “that you would fear the Lord.”  Looking back I can see how God truly answered the desires of heart.

It is with great joy that we, your family, find ourselves here in Detroit to honor you on your birthday.  Part of our mission statement has been that as Werner’s, regardless of how old we were, we would enjoy being with each other. There are so many fond memories that we have cultivated over the years.

Today you are 25, in May I turned 50 and in six months ago your grandfather became 75 thus this called for a Werner celebration. Life is about making the most of every opportunity as no one knows what tomorrow holds.

So SURPRISE!!!  Yep the past few days have been full of surprises 🙂 as we all decided to join you in Detroit for the big 25.   I do hope that when you look back on this birthday, you will realize the incredible love we (family and friends) all have for you. It truly does my heart good to see you surrounded by such a great community of friends.  I feel more connected to you and team Detroit now that I have seen where you all live and have visited some of your favorite places.

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Below are 25 ways that we have seen you love others well and more importantly how we have seen you love Christ. Of course this is not an exhaustive list as it’s impossible to encapsulate ones life into a list.

  1. Love begins in the home and we so appreciate how you have loved and honored us, your family, well.
  2. It means the world to us that you and your sisters are best friends.
  3. You light up a room when you enter it and more importantly it’s amazing how so many are drawn not to you but to our Creator because you shine brightly.
  4. Your smile is warm and your joy contagious.
  5. You have always enjoyed pouring into the lives of others.
  6. You assume the best of others and don’t take up an offense.  I love how quickly you forgive and move on.
  7. You are a hard worker and give 100% to whatever job you are doing. While working at Rudy’s and Chuy’s you showed Jesus’ love for your co-workers. Even today when we go to Rudy’s folks ask about you.
  8. Amazing how your passion for photography began at 14 and quickly blossomed into a successful business that continues today.  Your talents capture the beauty in people and God’s creation.
  9. You are adventurous and fearless. At 18 you flew alone to South Africa to spend six months working and being trained by Operation Mobilization. You were with folks you didn’t know and in a foreign place, however, no one is a stranger to you.
  10. You have such incredible humor which brings laughter wherever you go.
  11. God has granted you lots and lots of favor. When raising support to travel with Operation Mobilization you collected twice as much needed allowing you to return to Namibia to take photos for OM promotional use.
  12. God’s favor follows you and has been seen most recently in collecting all funding needed for your upcoming mission trip on December 26.
  13. You have such incredible faith in regards to trusting God to provide for your needs.  I love how you share the various ways He has provided.
  14. Adventurous nicely sums you up.  There are so so many places you have been.
  15. Not many people can say they have started a church. You and others pioneered a home church on the UT campus to reach those who would never step foot in a Church.
  16. You have incredible faith allowing you to travel everywhere/anywhere knowing it’s safer to be in God’s will than any other place.
  17. You have made countless friends internationally and locally allowing you to sofa surf when you get the itch to travel.
  18. Traveling alone with Courtney on two “sister trips” in Europe in 2007 and 2013.
  19. Living life fully and with so much zeal.
  20. Seeking to give God all glory.
  21. Assuming a leadership role within the home church.
  22. You are a counselor to many.  Because of how well you listen and the wisdom you have, many turn to you, including me.
  23. Graduating from UT December 2011. Hook em’ Horns!
  24. Moving to Detroit to be part of what God is doing there. So many stories surrounding this God adventure.
  25. You speak life into others as you search for the good in others seeking to excite them in their God given identity.   And the list goes on and on…

We pray that God will grant you many more decades.  We are so proud of the beautiful God fearing Woman you have become.