Checking The Boxes

Call it: #1 gratuitous bragging, or #2 unnecessary roughness, or #3 cynicism.

I am: #1 a proud Pops, #2 an old man that has earned my turn to speak without a filter (I however use my blog rather than Twitter like other old, filterless dudes.), and #3 Yes, I am a cynic.

One of our Grand-Girls recently came home with a written report from the principal’s office. YIKES… The title at the top of the form however, was: “Positve Office Referral.” I had no idea such a thing existed. My parents never received a report like this from my principal or any other employee of the school system.

Of course I’m proud! And yes I am bragging. If I could find one of those bumper stickers that says, “My Grand-Kids Are Smart,” I would use it.

I have redacted much of the glowing report, but I wanted to share the checklist portion of the form. Notice that she checked ALL the boxes. 


But this essay is only partially about bragging. Just for fun (or to deepen the collective depression) pick a politician, any politician, up to and including the one currently occupying the “highest office in the land”. Now, check all the boxes that apply.

What if we were to make a pact that in any forthcoming election we would only vote for candidates that could check half these boxes?

For more than thirty years, I worked with teenagers in local churches. Then and now, young people hold a very dear place in my heart. When it comes to youth, my cynicism melts away. I am an eternal optimist in this area.

Looking back over those years and those kids, I hope that I was honest with them and realistic and straightforward. One of the things I loved about that role was trying to walk with them as they navigated adolescence. Sort of a guiding principle for me came from a verse in the Book of Luke, 2:52. I liked it a lot because it is the only verse in the Bible that says anything about Jesus as a teenager. The Bible pretty much skips the years of his life between 12 and 30. 

The verse says: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” I’m not a theologian; never have been, never will be. I did not go to seminary and the only Greek I know is the guy that runs the gyros food truck (flam on the snare, crash cymbal).

My take on the verse is that Jesus grew in four ways: intellectually (in wisdom), physically (in stature), spiritually  (in favor with God), and socially (in favor with man). And there you have a balanced picture of adolescence.

One of the crazy parts of the whole adolscence journey is figuring out what is up with these changing bodies? (I have similar questions as my 60-something year old body is in full mutiny.)

If you will recall, getting to know and figuring out what to do with these uncertian physical urges was a challange for teens.(And apparently for old politicans too).

As I hoped to convey, there is also inside of us a spiritual curiosity and life worth exploring. It’s just that it doesn’t demand attention like the physical part does. So as a youth minister you try to creatively help, or offer tools, or encouragement. Sometimes I did more harm than good, I’m certain. 

I do know this: as someone who wanted to help teens develop their worldview, as they began to clarify and define their values, you always hoped there was a part of their culture that was solid, that would support them. When President Clinton did what he did to Monica Lewinsky and then went on national TV, wagged his finger at us and lied to us, I hated that. He was undermining culture, kicking stones from the foundation; in my opinion. I hated the plague of sexual abuse of young people by church leaders.

When the current POTUS, and proud owner of his own illicit sexual exploits, says that he wants to see Roy Moore, an unrepentent pervert who took advantage of teenaged girls, elected to the United States Senate because he needs his vote; our culture is undermined. We become more base as a nation and as a civilization. And by “base” I mean more unprincipled, with squishy values. And even more tragically, there is that misguided, ugly thread within the “evangelical church” that is supporting this twisted reality as well. 

And we wonder why young people today mistrust institutions.

I am so grateful that my Grand-Kids have amazing, loving, grounded parents, solid spiritual communities and schools where a little girl’s teacher and principal will give them a report that affirms virtue.

This same little girl said something to me a few days ago about the president of the United States. I asked her if she knew who the president was? She said, “Abraham Lincoln?” I couldn’t bear to tell her otherwise.

How long will it take to see justice?

"How long? Not long because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I hope he’s right.