Take the Stress Test

There is a scale of stress called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale that calculates the different levels of stress in our lives due to different circumstances we may have endured recently. Below is a link where you can calculate your own level of stress. It’s pretty interesting, especially because it includes what we might think of as good things in our lives, like vacations or seeing my mortgage drop below $30,000. Of course, anybody that’s ever been on a family vacation knows how stressful these can be. Take the test and see how you are faring.

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Working on my house

I started last month a big project at my house. We have had a screened in back porch since we bought our house almost ten years ago. I decided to have a new floor put in, flagstone by Tim Loy, and then put up a new wall with windows and a steel door. The room is divided 70/30 by another wall. The small room is accessed from our master bedroom and will be a home office/study. The large room is going to be a game room.

It’s been a real adventure, putting in wiring, new rafters to support the tin roof and all the other work, much of which I have done before but some is new ground. By far the most frustrating part has been the roof. We’ve had small leaks in our roof over the years, but it was never a big deal because it was an outside room anyway with nothing in it that could be hurt by the water. But now I want it dried in completely.

So last week I took out every screw in the roof and put all new ones in place. Several of the screws were rusted all the way through, giving evidence of an ongoing problem. I also caulked all the seams, so I thought I had done well. I thought that until it rained. There were two leaks, which is better than the three I had before, but not what I hoped for.

So I went back up on the roof with some heavy duty metal roof sealant, flashing and determination. I went to the two spots I thought to be the culprits and worked them over. Satisfied, I waited for the next rain. Saturday I called Julie as I was on my way to the graveside and driving through the pouring rain. She had already checked. Two leaks, still! When I got home the rain was stopped but the evidence of the leaks was all over the floor. One had moved and was smaller. The other seemed to be just as it was before.

Today I went at it again. Armed with a water hose to recreate the leaks I searched for answers. More sealant, flashing and determination. Now I’m just waiting for the next rain to see how I’ve done.

The thing is, leaks are hard to find. It’s hard to know if the leak is coming from directly above the drip, or if it is traveling down the bottom side of the roof and dripping several feet from the actual hole in the roof. You don’t know if you’ve fixed it until it starts raining and then you can’t repair it until it stops raining. Then you have to wait for rain again to see if you fixed it. It’s frustrating and takes patience and perseverance. What’s funny about my situation is this, I didn’t care about the leaks two months ago, but now that I want to use this space differently I’m becoming obsessed with fixing it.

Do you ever think about how we put up with sin or weakness in our lives because we don’t think it really matters? But then, suddenly, it becomes so prevalent to us, a hindrance to our growth and it can be so difficult to remedy. We may fool ourselves into thinking that we are problem free, but the reality is that when it rains the weakness will appear again. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to grow past something that we let fester for years. But it is worth it.

Review: Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers

Just finished “Forbidden Fruit” by Mark Regnerus. Regnerus is a sociologist at The University of Texas at Austin and in this book he chronicles his research with teenagers on the subject of sex and the impact their religion has had on their decisions about sex. I found the book to be very interesting, though at times too academic for my simple tastes. His honest appraisal of the myriad of studies done over the years as well as those done very recently helps us understand some truths about the influences, motivations and subsequent actions of teens. At the end he lists twelve conclusions. I’ll chronicle a few of them here with my own comments. For more you’ll have to buy the book.

1. Religiosity almost always makes a difference. Most popular media stories will report how the incidence of sexual activity among those attending church is not different that those not attending church. However, for those students who see religion as very important and who are in religious families and have like minded friends the incidence of sexual activity is much lower than other students and especially lower than non-religious students.

2. More devoutly religious parents tend to talk less often to their adolescent children about sex and birth control and most often about sexual morality. Probably not a surprise to you, but you may be surprised to find out that those parents who think talking about birth control may contribute to a more sexually active child tend to be correct. With that said, parents and the church need to be able to voice a biblically based sexual ethic that upholds moral boundaries while also addressing the beauty of sexual intimacy within marriage.

3. Religion affects adolescents’ sexual attitudes and motivations more than their actions. While religious teenagers most often know what the religious teachings are, wait until marriage, these teachings do not always affect the choices they make.

4. The success of abstinence pledging is mixed. While the majority of abstinence pledgers will break their pledge before marriage, they tend to wait longer to engage in sexual activity and have fewer partners. Fully 45% of those in his study who had made abstinence pledges were still unmarried and still virgins at the end of the study several years later.

5. The depiction of sexual promiscuity seen among teenagers in mass media productions is not close to reality. Most teenagers have not had sex, though many will before the leave their teenage years. Multiple partners and outlandish sexual exploits are not common in the life of the typical teenager.

Regnerus articulates these conclusions and more based on extensive studies. One of his postscript conclusions, not based on research but his summary of thoughts on the research, is that the idea of removing morality from discussions of sex in public schools is foolish. As he says, “There is no value-free perspective on sex.” Changing the language to describe “healthy” and “unhealthy” sex does not change the reality that we conceive as some acts as “good” and others as “bad.” He states;

Sex is far from a simple pleasure. The emotional pain that lingers after poor sexual decision making, at any age, is evidence of the complex morality inherent to human sexuality. The sexual human begs for something better and more lasting than hooking up or satiating a partner’s will.

It is imperative that the church enter into this conversation with more than a moral prohibition and a “because God said so” answer. We must be prepared to articulate more than, “you should make good decisions for your future” as a reason to abstain. Strengthening the family, encouraging parental conversations with boys and girls, building strong peer relationships among our students, and helping our students fall in love with God and not merely in line with His law; all these are needed to build a strong, safe, stand up generation.

Your comments are welcome!

Great Day at Spring Creek

It’s always a good day when we gather for worship. I always enjoy the spirit of our church, the enthusiasm for the songs and the willingness and strong desire to hear from the Lord through His word. But, of course, yesterday was special since it was “Go Texan Day.” What made it stand out? Let’s see:

1. We had 206 in Bible Study. That’s a record for my tenure here. The thing is, most of those in Bible Study yesterday had been in worship at least once, and some for many Sundays. It was great to see folks moving from making that connection with God in worship to making that connection with community in Bible Study. My hope and prayer is that this was not a “one Sunday thing,” but a new pattern of life.

2. We had a great breakfast. I really enjoyed the continental breakfast time. There was good fellowship and it was simple. I think you can expect to see that breakfast time again.

3. We had great worship through singing. I thought the songs really spoke strongly to me. I love that song, “Hallelujah, What a Savior.”

4. God spoke to me throughout the service. That’s what made it a great day personally for me. As a pastor it’s easy to get caught up in the corporate victories of the whole church, but it’s wonderful when you can know that the Lord has spoken to you as an individual. Thanks to the Lord, it was a great day!

Can’t wait for this week, to see what’s gonna happen. Can’t wait for Sunday, to see everybody again!